CALGARY — Thursday did not get off to a good start for the Canadiens.
For starters, it was -21C when they left their hotel and headed to the Scotiabank Saddledome for their morning skate. Then came news that Brendan Gallagher wouldn’t be able to play Thursday night against the Flames because of a lower-body injury and that fellow forward Mike Hoffman had been placed in the injured-reserve list with a lower-body injury.
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Rem Pitlick was called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket but couldn’t get to Calgary in time to be ready to play. As a result, Chris Wideman was put in the lineup as a seventh defenceman.
When the Canadiens returned to the Saddledome a couple of hours before the start of the game, Sean Monahan was wearing a plastic-boot walking cast on his right foot.
But things got better quickly for the Canadiens after the puck dropped to start the game. Rookie Juraj Slafkovsky scored after only 13 seconds when Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom came sliding way out of his net while racing against Monahan (minus his cast) for a loose puck. Slafkovsky, the No. 1 overall pick at this year’s draft, was left with a clear net to score his fourth goal of the season.
The Canadiens ended up beating the Flames 2-1 with Cole Caufield scoring a power-play goal at 6:29 of the third period on yet another beautiful setup from captain Nick Suzuki. It was Caufield’s 13th goal of the season. Elias Lindholm scored for the Flames.
The Canadiens improved their record to 12-10-1, while the Flames fell to 10-10-3.
The Canadiens were outplayed for much of the first period after Slafkovsky scored and were outshot 12-6, but Jake Allen was solid in goal. He made a huge breakaway stop on Blake Coleman with 1:33 left in the period and the Canadiens took a 1-0 lead into the intermission. Allen came into the game with a 6-8-0 record, a 3.57 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage after allowing 22 goals in his previous five starts.
During the first TV timeout six minutes into the game, the Flames showed a tribute video on the scoreboard honouring Monahan. Players on both benches stood up and banged their sticks on the boards, while the fans gave Monahan a standing ovation as he raised his stick in appreciation. Monahan assisted on both Canadiens goals, giving him 11 assists this season.
Allen continued to be solid in the second period, but the Flames tied the score 1-1 with only 29 seconds left on the clock. Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson appeared to be tripped in the corner by Lindholm (with no penalty call) and Lindholm then found himself alone at the side of the net as the play continued. When the puck came to Lindholm, Allen had no chance to make a save.
Earlier in the period, the Flames’ Adam Ruzicka had hit the post behind Allen and then Slafkovsky hit the post behind Markstrom. Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis promoted Slafkovsky to the second line for this game with Monahan and Josh Anderson. Slafkovsky’s goal was the quickest by a Canadiens player to start a game since Dec. 2, 2010, when Brian Gionta scored 11 seconds in a 5-1 win over the Devils in New Jersey.
After Caufield gave the Canadiens the lead in the third period, Allen continued his impressive performance in goal with several big saves to seal the victory. The Flames outshot the Canadiens 46-19, including 21-5 in the third period.
Wideman ended up playing some right wing on the fourth line with centre Jake Evans and Michael Pezzetta, while Pitlick and Gallagher watched from the press box.
It ended up being a good day for the Canadiens, who were flying to Edmonton after the victory and will play the Oilers Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, SN360, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
Liveblog replay: Allen stops 45 in 2-1 win over Flames
Injured Canadiens wingers Gallagher, Hoffman won't face Flames
Former Canadien Tyler Toffoli and wife Cat find fit in Calgary