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PRICE CHECK

Flames fire 31 shots, but Carey Price stops them all as Montreal hands Calgary a 2-0 loss

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

There's good news, and bad news.

The good, quite clearly, was the play of their goaltender, who was absolutely sensational in his return to the net.

David Rittich finished with 35 stops and was the reason his club stayed within a strike for much of the night.

But therein lies the rub.

A sputtering motor at the other end of the rink spoiled the netminder's heroics, and as a result, the Flames opened a three-game road trip with a 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

 

Video: Brendan Parker wraps up a 2-0 loss to the Habs

 

You had to wonder what the response would be.

Would the buzz and emotion of a spirited Battle of Alberta victory some 48 hours earlier spill over, or would the task in La Belle Province be a tall one with heavy legs after a long flight east?

With the loss, the Flames' five-game winning streak comes to an end, and their overall record drops to 25-18-5.

The Flames were under siege in the early going, surrendering 12 of the first 13 shots of the game, including three on a threatening Montreal powerplay midway through.

Rittich, though, was up to the task in a big way, stopping every puck thrown his way. His best of the dozen came hot off the stick of Jordan Weal, who showed some finesse on a give-and-go with Ilya Kovalchuk, before gunning a shot in tight.

The game leveled out in the moments afterward, but the Habs put their foot back on the accelerator and potted the icebreaker at 13:30.

Jeff Petry snuck down from the point and was the beneficiary of a Dale Weise feed in the middle, but after holding onto it and pulling the D off course, his wraparound try was foiled on the near side. However, the bouncing puck landed right on the stick of Weal, and the Vancouver native made no mistake with a nice turnaround move, ripping it five-hole to score his fifth of the year.

Shots favoured the Canadiens 17-7 after one.

It was more of the same in the front half of the second, as the Flames' offence failed to gain traction. Rittich, who had a bead on everything tossed his way, thwarted the onslaught with a pair of dandy stops off Phillip Danault on a Canadiens powerplay, 10 minutes in. Stopped on the initial, high-slot redirect, Danault collected the rebound and tried to pry it home on the backhand, but Rittich kicked out the left pad and kept it a 1-0 game.

 

Video: CGY@MTL: Rittich stuffs Kotkaniemi at the doorstep

 

Tobias Rieder had a great chance to even the score off a Montreal turnover late in the stanza, but after tracking down a loose puck and firing an off-balance backhander into the pillows of the netminder, the Canadiens made the clear and no damage was done.

Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane had a couple of good looks as well, but Carey Price - as he has done his whole career - made it look easy.

The Habs opened up a two-goal lead at 9:45 of the third, as rookie Ryan Poehling scored his first goal (and point) of the season.

Poehling, who scored a hat trick in last year's regular-season finale and has been held without a point since, took advantage of a broken play off the faceoff, bowled his way to the net and found the open side with a nifty bit of stickwork.

The Flames pushed in the final few minutes with Rittich out for the extra attacker, but Price made a couple of 10-bell stops - including one off a dancing TJ Brodie - to preserve the shutout.

 

Video: Condensed Game: Flames @ Canadiens

 

THEY SAID IT:

SEAN MONAHAN ON THE OFFENSIVE STRUGGLE:

"Chances are one thing, but you've got to put the puck in the net. There aren't many excuses in this league. At the end of the day, you've got to score goals."

MONAHAN ON RE-FOCUSING FOR THURSDAY:

"These next two games are huge going into a break. You can't look past that. These are points that we need and we need them right now."

 

Video: "These are points that we need..."

 

JOHNNY GAUDREAU ON THE MESSAGE AFTER THE FIRST:

"Shoot the puck. We might have got a little too fancy, at times. ... It cost us."

DAVID RITTICH ON HIS 35-SAVE EFFORT:

I felt good, like myself, and regained some of the confidence that I lost the last three games. Still, we lost the game. Price was better and that's what really matters."

MIKAEL BACKLUND ON MONTREAL'S HOT START:

"It wasn't our best start. The second was a little better. But yeah, we've got to come out a lot harder than we did. We knew they were going to push, too. They've struggled of late and we knew that - knew they were going to come out hard at home."

GEOFF WARD ON THE DISAPPOINTING OUTCOME:

"Not enough emotional attachment to the game. Twice this has happened to us right after an emotional game where we come out, we come out flat the next game. It's the time of the year where we can't do that. We got out-battled, out-raced, out-competed - out-worked. Right from the opening faceoff. It took us some time to try and claw our way back into the hockey game. But we were flat tonight and at this time of year, you can't be."

WARD ON TURNING THE PAGE FROM SATURDAY:

"We talked about it, that it could potentially be a trap game. ... But it's something we have to rectify and it's part of learning how to win. When a game's over, it's over, and you've got to get on to the next one. For whatever reason, we weren't prepared from the drop of the puck tonight and as a result, we end up on the short end of the game."

 

Video: "Not enough emotional attachment to the game"

 

ONE-TIMERS:

Tonight, Andrew Mangiapane suited up in his 100th career game. The 23-year-old has 15 points (8G, 7A) in 45 games this season and 28 points (16G, 12A) over parts of three seasons so far in his career. Mangiapane was drafted by the Flames in the sixth round, 166th overall in 2015. … Cam Talbot was recognized on Monday as the NHL's Third Star of the Week. Talbot, who led the Flames to a perfect 3-0 record over the past week, had an NHL-best .973 save percentage and a 1.67 goals-against average over those three starts. Having won six of his last eight appearances, the Caledonia, Ont., native has improved to 7-7-0, along with a .922 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average this season. … While Talbot's efforts over the last little while have been incredible, to say the least, Rittich has turned in more than a few show-stoppers of his own. Rittich entered the night with a .925 high-danger save percentage at even strength dating back to Dec. 1. Only Toronto Maple Leafs backup Michael Hutchinson has been better in that situation with a mark of .941, but in a much smaller sample. Hutchinson has appeared in only five games in that span, while Rittich has double that. Who's third, you ask? You guessed it: Cam Talbot at .911.

 

THE LINEUP:

Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start the game:

FORWARDS

Matthew Tkachuk - Elias Lindholm - Andrew Mangiapane
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Mikael Backlund
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube
Zac Rinaldo - Tobias Rieder - Sam Bennett

DEFENCE

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson

GOALTENDER

David Rittich

Scratched: Mark Jankowski, Michael Stone

 

UP NEXT:

The Flames continue this three-game road trip on Thursday with a stop in Toronto to face Auston Matthews and the banged-up Maple Leafs. They'll finish up the eastern swing with a matinee against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday before getting some time off thanks to the bye week, followed by the NHL All-Star Weekend. The Flames return home to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday, Jan. 28, as they host the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues (click here for tickets), before travelling to Edmonton the very next night for Round 3 of the Battle of the Alberta.

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