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'I COULD'VE BEEN THE HERO'

Lindholm and the Flames come absurdly close to winning OT thriller, but Domi's goal prevails

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Back and forth they went. One headlong dash after another. First one protagonist seizing the initiative, then the other. Wave crashing against wave.

Tomas Tatar bullying his way in front only to be denied. Max Domi turned away.

Elias Lindholm, absurdly alone, trying to slip a close-in try between the wickets of Carey Price at the other end.

Then, only seconds following the Lindholm near thing, Domi, off on a coast-to-coast dash, snapping a shot beyond the stab of Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich at 3:52 to end an engrossing, don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it overtime entertainment, tipped 4-3 in the Montreal Canadiens' favour.

"I could've been the hero,'' sighed Lindholm post-game. "And then it went the other way and they scored.

"More an instinct (play) on my part. Looking back I probably could've taken it to my backhand.

"But it is what it is.

"Kind of tough but a new day tomorrow."

 

Video: "It could have gone either way."

 

Why, nothing seemed out of the realm of possibility, or improbability, in the late going. With a scant 2.5 seconds remaining in regulation, for instance, and a face-off to Price's left, a clean Lindholm face-off win that Mark Giordano hammers net-ward, the puck glancing off the right skate of Canadiens captain Shea Weber and kissing the right post with the goaltender rooted to the spot.

Only a minute or so previous, Price had traded in his goalie mask for a balaclava, Johnny Gaudreau circling to spot TJ Brodie coming late.

Breathtaking stuff.

Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington, arriving late into the rush, had provided the Flames a precious 3-2 lead 6:25 into the third, picking his spot over Price's glove.

But a deft deflection from Canadiens' prize rookie Nick Suzuki at the near post at 11:58 sent the debate into OT.

"It felt good," acknowledged Kylington of his first goal of the campaign. "Obviously it would feel better if we'd won the game. That's the most important thing.

"A point is a point. That was good. Obviously we wanted to win it in overtime. Could've gone either way."

 

Video: "They capitalized on their chances."

 

Once again, the Flames followed up a solid opening 20 minutes with sub-par second period, on this occasion allowing a 2-0 lead to evaporate into the mists.

"Same stuff that happened the last couple games,'' grumbled Matthew Tkachuk. "A couple goals in a couple minutes. They seemed to have momentum for most of that second period.

"We gotta play better with the lead.

"We're not satisfied with a point. We were up 2-0 and 3-2 with 10 minutes left. The best teams find a way to win that one in regulation.

"We did a good job of that a couple weeks ago but we gotta get back to that.

"We've got to find a way to have better second periods. I don't know what it is right now. I can't put my finger on it."

The strike that transformed doubt into belief for the Canadiens, the goal to cut their deficit to 2-1, was definitely one Rittich wanted back.

Stationed near the corner, virtually parallel to the goal line, the moppet of menace, Brendan Gallagher, whipped a shot net-ward, short side, and somehow the puck deflected off Rittich - not tight enough against the post, obviously - up and in.

From then on, the re-energized Canadiens held undeniably sway and equalized at 13:11, Joel Armia, accepting a Lehkonen drop pass, and ripping the puck beyond Rittich.

A coaches' challenge by Geoff Ward for offside went for naught and the sides trooped to their respective rooms level, 2-2, at the second intermission.

Montreal's period-long dominance was reflected in the shots - 16-5.

 

Video: "We wilted a bit, and they came real hard."

 

"I thought we were good for the first 10 minutes (of the second),'' adjudged Ward. "We gave them two chances in the first 10, then once they got that first goal they kind of put us back on our heels a little bit and they got some momentum and then the tables shifted. They came at us hard."

The first period had belonged to Calgary linemates Lindholm and Tkachuk, as much a less-than-a-week-before-Xmas duo as mistletoe and holly, chestnuts and open fires or eggnog and a welcome shot of rum.

The Swede's short, diagonal pass had set the table for Tkachuk to slot in his 13th of the season and a 1-0 Flames lead, at 7:34. Then, with only 7.6 seconds remaining until the break and Canadiens' centre Phillip Danault banished for tripping, Tkachuk returned the favour, a crisp seam pass finding Lindholm stationed at the far post for the most rudimentary of finishes.

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