On Thursday, Darryl Sutter coached his first game for the Calgary Flames in nearly 15 years. It was against a tired opponent, mind you, but the Flames responded with arguably their most complete 60 minutes of hockey this season. The Flames beat the visiting Montreal Canadiens by a 2-1 score to begin Sutter’s second stint as head coach.

The rundown

The first period was scoreless, but the Flames looked rock solid. They made short exit passes and avoided turnovers. They avoided odd-man rushes. They went at Montreal’s puck carriers with waves of forecheckers. Shots were 6-6 and scoring chances 7-7 in the first period.
The Flames opened the scoring early in the second off a nice shift by the fourth line. The Habs went for a line change and the fourth line decided “Hey, let’s try to do some stuff,” and went in on a three-on-two on the Habs’ defenders. Derek Ryan made a nifty pass to Josh Leivo for a tap-in at the side of the net to make it 1-0 Flames.
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Late in the period, the Flames added to their lead. A forecheck pushed the Habs below their own goal line. Shea Weber’s attempted outlet pass got tipped by both Ryan and Sam Bennett, dribbling right to Leivo in the high slot. Leivo uncorked a shot and beat Jake Allen to make it 2-0 Flames.
Shots were 14-5 Flames and scoring chances 13-4 Flames in the second period.
The Flames defended well in the third period, but the Habs got one back. Juuso Valimaki blew a tire behind the net and his attempted pass blooped to Shea Weber at the point. Weber’s shot was tipped by Corey Perry in front and beat Jacob Markstrom to cut Calgary’s lead to 2-1.
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Shots were 9-7 Flames and scoring chances 6-4 Canadiens in the third period.

Why the Flames won

They didn’t play a perfect game, or a mistake-free game, but a team that has gotten in their own way a lot this season by giving up too many good chances or getting too fancy seemed perfectly content to embrace the grind and make life tough on Montreal.
The Habs didn’t get too many free scoring chances, and the Flames’ hitting and forecheck had them on their heels for big chunks of this game.

Red Warrior

It’s a joint award to the fourth line of Bennett, Ryan and Leivo, as they were superb all game.

The turning point

Leivo’s second goal, the eventual game-winner, capped off a superb second period where the Flames’ forecheckers ran roughshod over the Habs all over the ice.
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The numbers

Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.
Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Face-Off%
Game
Score
Ryan
78.6
90.0
3.810
Hanifin
72.4
50.0
1.570
Tanev
72.0
50.0
1.440
Tkachuk
70.0
85.7
0.580
Dube
69.6
75.0
0.710
Lucic
68.4
71.4
0.240
Mangiapane
66.7
71.4
0.240
Giordano
64.0
86.7
1.320
Lindholm
63.2
85.7
0.270
Andersson
63.0
86.7
1.070
Backlund
61.5
75.0
-0.020
Leivo
60.0
87.5
2.810
Bennett
56.3
87.5
2.290
Monahan
53.3
45.5
0.100
Gaudreau
50.0
45.5
0.080
Nesterov
50.0
66.7
-0.170
Valimaki
44.4
66.7
-0.260
Ritchie
41.7
45.5
0.020
Markstrom
0.430
Rittich

This and that

The Flames’ record when leading after two periods: 10-0-0.
Milan Lucic fought Josh Anderson in the third period.

Up next

The Flames (12-12-3) are back in action on Saturday against the Canadiens.