It was an exciting game…until it wasn’t.
Coming off back to back games on the weekend, where the Calgary Flames won 1-0 against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and then lost against the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Sunday, the Flames should have been hungry for another win on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens. But what started out as hunger eventually turn to a complete loss of appetite. Montreal lost their last game 6-2 against the struggling Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday so I expected them to want retribution in Alberta. And they got it.
They Flames offense opened with energy and effort, knowing that the Montreal Canadiens would not be an easy opponent to beat. At times, the Flames offense looked like bulls in a china shop, but they did everything they could to break through the Montreal blue line.
The defense had one mistake and the Canadiens capitalized on it. Instead of covering the net and Mike Smith in goal, the Calgary players clustered around the puck, leaving the defensive zone open, which led to Tomas Tatar burying the first goal for Montreal. Garnet Hathaway took it upon himself later in the game to play defense and did a good job of it. Smith looked a little sluggish in net to start the game, but he made key saves to keep the team alive. After 20 minutes, the Flames were down 1-0 with shots on goal in their favour, 13-9.
With a penalty called on Xavier Ouellet for a high stick, the Flames gained some momentum as they cycled the puck well in the offensive zone. After some patience and a bit of teasing by the Flames, Matthew Tkachuk took a hard shot at Carey Price and tied the game 1-1.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) November 16, 2018
Assists went to Mark Giordano and Elias Lindholm. With momentum on their side, Lindholm took advantage with another shot on net soon after but dramatically rung it off the post.
The period was all Calgary as they won puck battles against the boards, ran up the shot clock, and read each play with precision. With only five shots on net, Montreal had a tough time keeping pace with the home team in the middle frame. Lindholm blocked one of the few shots on the Flames net and ended up on his knees in pain, but remained in the game.
T.J. Brodie, who started off slowly but came back to have a great game, had possession in the offensive zone, passed to Giordano, who then passed it back to Brodie. In the meantime, Tkachuk circled behind the net and then waited out front for a pass. When the timing was right, Brodie passed out front to Tkachuk who slammed it home to give the Flames a 2-1 lead heading into the final period.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) November 16, 2018
It was make it or break it in the third period and Montreal broke it. With no puck luck on the side of the Flames, Mikael Backlund rung another puck off the post, which led to a change in momentum of the game. The Canadiens struggled to make long passes, which should have worked in favour of the Flames, but they couldn’t seem to fight off that bad-luck bug. When you’ve been bit by bad luck and your goalie lets in a wrister by Drouin to tie the game, momentum shifts in favour of the other team.
The instant that could have changed the shift in power and leadership was when Sam Bennett took the puck up the ice, got tripped, and still made a stellar pass to Backlund in front of the net. But Carey Price made a key save to kill any momentum the Flames could have earned back and the game changed completely.
With the shift in favour of the visiting team, the Flames seemingly fell apart at an alarming rate as Artturi Lehkonen skated the puck over the blue line, took a common shot on net, and Smith let it slip through his legs. Immediately afterwards, Backlund made his way over to the opponent’s bench and cross-checked an opposing player, which sent him to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Luckily for the Flames, no goals were scored on the Montreal power play and they couldn’t seem to bury an empty net goal, but it wouldn’t make much difference as they fell to the Canadiens 3-2 in regulation. Total shots on goal were 45-22 in favour of the Flames.
Player of the Game
Sam Bennett. Bennett was bumped up to the second line with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund while Michael Frolik was demoted to the fourth line. He earned two shots on net, four hits, a 67 percent faceoff percentage, and even got a shot at power play time. He used his 16 minutes of ice time to showcase his speed, his skill, and attempted to prove himself alongside Tkachuk and Backlund. With the sweet pss he made to Backlund short-handed in the third period, he showed us how he was willing to go to any length to get the puck on net.
The next Calgary Flames game is Saturday, November 17th when they host the Edmonton Oilers in the first installment of the Battle of Alberta this season.