The Calgary Flames returned home to the Saddledome to host the Montreal Canadiens tonight. It was announced on the Flames website that Jonas Hiller has a lower-body injury and Karri Ramo was called up yesterday. Paul Byron returned to Calgary for the first time since being picked up off waivers by the Canadiens and he made quite an impression. Carey Price was not in net, 6'2" Mike Condon took his place instead. Joni Ortio in net for the Flames. The Habs were coming off a road game in Edmonton last night but the Flames couldn't capitalize with a win.
The first five minutes were all Flames pressure, but Habs Dale Weise opened the scoring. Not long afterwards, Johnny Gaudreau skated the puck through the Habs defense, around the net, and attempted a wraparound, only to be denied by Condon. Josh Jooris made a case for himself as a defensive player when he took the place of some of his own blue-liners. But the best moment of the period was when Gaudreau skated right up to the Habs defense, passed to himself through the legs of Montreals defense, then passed to Sam Bennett, who took a shot on net. Even though there was no goal, it proved to everyone how truly dangerous Johnny can be. Two plays, Emelin taking out Johnny against the boards and Pacioretty holding Mark Giordano's stick, didn't get called. But, finally, T.J. Brodie drew a penalty on the Habs and the Flames got a power play. It was a terrible power play by the Flames, who needed to control their icings and stop the long passes. The first period ended with a score of 1-0 Canadiens.
Jiri Hudler opened the middle period with an equalizer after a nice feed from Sean Monahan. Gaudreau took a weak penalty soon after, which did not make him happy. During the Flame penalty kill, it was Giordano vs Pacioretty in the Calgary zone, but Gio won the battle with a sliding block to stop a Montreal goal. The Habs fought back with a goal soon after, which put them up 2-1. Gaudreau really wanted that goal back and he earned it with a great pass to Josh Jooris that tied the game again. But Dale Weise seemed to have the Flames number tonight as he notched his second goal and put the Canadiens up by one again. Brodie was a shot-blocking king, but he couldn't do it all himself and Montreal scored again before the end of the period with an assist to former Calgary player, Paul Byron, to put the Habs up 4-2. There was a weak tripping call on Jooris, but the Flames killed it off before the end of the period. The score was 4-2 after the second.
Whatever happened to the Flames third period comebacks?? So far this season, they are nowhere to be found. Tonight was the perfect example. During a Flames power play, Montreal had a short-handed chance when Paul Byron, stole the puck, skated up ice, and scored on Joni Ortio. The score was 5-2 and the Flames looked frustrated and/or defeated. And in one last twist of fate, Dale Weise scored his third of the game which sent a flurry of hats from Montreal fans floating onto Calgary ice. It wasn't pretty. And neither were the "Ole, Ole" chants. I was hoping this would snap the Flames back into action, but it didn't happen. The third period was another write-off in a disappointing start to this season.
In spite of the hard-to-watch final period, the Flames played some good hockey in the first couple periods. Giordano and Brodie are back to making defensive magic on the ice and Dougie Hamilton was solid in the Montreal zone. There were some amazing passes in the beginning of this game, and most of them involved Johnny Gaudreau.
Suggestion for next game
Get back to basics and start with the long passes that always seem to end up on the opponents sticks. It may also cut back on some of the icing calls against the Flames.
Flame of the game
Johnny Gaudreau for his sweet pass to himself through the legs of the Montreal players in the first period. Even though it didn't lead to a goal, I could watch that clip over and over. Throughout the entire game, Gaudreau didn't quit, he didn't stop playing to his highest level. He kept on doing his Johnny things.
Tomorrow night the Flames are in Edmonton to take on the Oilers. Consider that the Oilers won against the Montreal team last night, I think the Battle of Alberta will live on starting this season.
I didn't give up on this team years ago through tough times and I don't intend to give up now. It's been a tough start for Calgary, but I'm still holding onto hope that they will somehow be able to snap out of this rut.
Go Flames Go!