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TRADING PUNCHES

Canadiens rally from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to edge the Flames 4-3 in overtime

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

What is it about first periods?

Or seconds, for that matter?

For the third straight game, the Flames had an excellent opening 20 and appeared to be in control, but followed it up with a tough second that turned the tide and allowed the enemy off the ropes.

 

Video: Brendan Parker recaps a 4-3 OT loss to the Habs.

 

In a game promising high volume, it was every bit the full-court, firewagon press both player and coach promised at the outset.

On both sides.

Blow for blow.

But in the end, the Habs had more in the tank, out-lasting the Flames 4-3 in a thrilling overtime bout at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

First-period goals by Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm helped the Flames build an early two-goal lead, but second-period strikes by the visitors evened things up and set the stage for a wild finish.

Oliver Kylington broke a 2-2 tie 6:25 of the third, as he took a pass from Johnny Gaudreau off the rush and rifled a shot over Carey Price's left shoulder for his first in 39 games.

The goal capped a wild sequence that saw David Rittich - who finished with 39 saves - rob Joel Armia on a breakaway, and former Flame Brett Kulak on the rebound, moments earlier.

But the Habs weren't going away, and Nick Suzuki tied things up at 11:58, tipping a Nick Cousins pass top shelf.

Max Domi won it in overtime, launching a 25-foot slapshot off the far post and in.

With the OTL, the Flames' record falls to 18-14-5 on the year.

The Flames, who busted out their gorgeous, retro-white kits for the first time outside of the Heritage Classic, were coming off a couple of strong efforts, but, regrettably, had nothing to show for a pair of home dates against the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week.

The goalies - James Reimer for the 'Canes, and young Tristan Jarry for the Pens - were stellar.

And it wasn't getting any easier.

Up next was a former Vezina, Jennings and Hart Trophy winner in Carey Price, who Johnny Gaudreau referred to as one of the "best goalies to (ever) play" in a conversation some nine 10 hours earlier.

But whether it was Price, Plante, or any of the talented twine-minders forever engrained in Montreal Canadiens history, the pucks-on-net strategy was the tactic in play.

But, it would appear, the opponent got the same memo.

The final shot count favoured the Canadiens 43-27.

The Flames drew first blood at 7:34, off some great work by Andrew Mangiapane led to a turnover at the left dot. Mangiapane showed excellent hand-eye, knocking down a Montreal clearing attempt, before bulldozing his way toward the paint. He was eventually derailed en route, but Lindholm was there to make good, pouncing on the loose puck and feeding Tkachuk with a smooth, cross-crease feed that No. 19 easily cranked home at the side of the net.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: So nice you need to see it twice.#MTLvsCGY | #Flames pic.twitter.com/HzAVXWc0dd

 

The Habs took over in the back half of the frame, and came within a smidge of tying it late when Suzuki rifled a shot off the glove-side post from the top of the right circle, but the Flames - thanks to Rittich - held serve.

Rittich made a couple of 10-bell stops in the final five minutes, including a point-blank rejection in tight, causing Brendan Gallagher to look to the heavens in disbelief.

It was a fiercely pivotal moment, as a Phillip Danault tripping penalty shortly thereafter put the Flames' powerplay to work in the final minute of the stanza.

As it happens, the homeside took full advantage, setting up a beauty with only seconds on the clock to make it a 2-0 game.

This time, Tkachuk returned to the favour to Lindholm, finding him with an incredible backdoor feed, teeing up a tap-in.

The goal was Lindholm's team-leading 15th of the season, while Gaudreau picked up the secondary assist on a lovely, diagonal dish to Tkachuk on the opposite side.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: Tic. Tac. Toe.#MTLvsCGY | #Flames pic.twitter.com/Vupma1SYtY

 

Shots favoured the Habs 14-10 after one.

Rittich went back to work early in the second as he made a glorious, goal-line stand after Ben Chiarot unloaded from the point, and the rebound plopped down at his feet, creating a scramble in front.

But soon, the Habs found a crack in the armour.

From the sharpest of angles, deep in the corner, Gallagher fired a shot that squeezed between Rittich and the goalpost, making it a one-goal game at 9:46.

The Canadiens brought the game back on even terms with 6:49 to play in the period, as Joel Armia whipped home his 12th of the season with a great shot off the rush.

The Flames challenged the goal, believing the play was offside, but after a quick video review, the call was upheld.

The Habs outshot the Flames 16-7 in the middle frame.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: That pass. That shot.#MTLvsCGY | #Flames pic.twitter.com/ePhwaJ7Czn

 

THEY SAID IT:

MATTHEW TKACKUK ON LOST LEADS:

"Probably same stuff that happened the last couple games. Couple goals in a couple minute span there. They seemed to have momentum for most of that second period. They had the momentum the first few shifts, then we took it back with a couple good shifts, a couple good opportunities. I know I had one in front and Tobs (Tobias Rieder) had one with a 2-on-1 with Fro. It would have been good if one of those could go in - it makes it a little bit easier for us. Then they made it 2-1, then 2-2, and they had momentum for the rest of that period. … We've got to play better with the lead right now."

LINDHOLM ON THIRD-PERIOD SHOWING:

"We came in here after the second and wanted to re-group and talk a little bit. In the third, I thought we came out pretty good and it was a tight match out there. The third period was good - it could have gone either way - and it was probably a good result, 3-3, and in OT, it could go either way."

KYLINGTON ON HIS GOAL:

"It was a good play by Johnny. I came late in the zone, I just picked my corner and it went in. It was a good feeling, but like I said, it would feel better if we won."

GEOFF WARD ON SECOND-PERIOD LETDOWN:

"I thought we were good for the first 10 minutes (of the second), and then we gave them a few chances and that first goal kind of put us back on our heels a little bit. … Once you get caught out and they get fresh bodies over the well, that's when breakdowns happen. But tonight, we felt we were good. It was just a matter of - they generated a lot of momentum off that first goal and I think mentally we went, 'Uh oh.' We went back on our heels after that first goal and they started coming forward. I thought the powerplay for them was a real big momentum shifter for them and that put us back on our heels even more."

 

READ MORE IN SAY WHAT: 'PLAY BETTER WITH THE LEAD'

 

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

 

ONE-TIMERS:

Earlier in the day, the Flames announced that right-winger Austin Czarnik had cleared waivers and had been assigned to the club's AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat. In a corresponding move, the Flames recalled Zac Rinaldo from the Heat after he was dispatched there less than 24 hours earlier. The Flames now have 23 players on the roster, with defenceman Juuso Valimaki remaining on LTIR. … Flames legend Lanny McDonald was in the house this evening, taking in the pre-game warmup from the bench before surprising the players with a special visit to the locker-room before puck drop. Watch the video below!

 

Video: Lanny announced the starters vs. the Habs

 

THE LINEUP:

Here are the forward lines, D pair and goalie to start Thursday's game:

 

FORWARDS

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

 

DEFENCE

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

 

GOALTENDERS

David Rittich
Cam Talbot

 

UP NEXT:

The Flames finish up the pre-holiday portion of their schedule with a pair of back-to-back road games - in Dallas and Minnesota - Sunday and Monday. The team will reconvene after Christmas with a quick stop in Edmonton for the season's first instalment of the Battle of Alberta on Friday, Dec. 27, before returning home to begin a three-game homestand on Sunday, Dec. 29 against the Vancouver Canucks (click here for tickets).  

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