One win is in the books to kick off a crucial series, but the Calgary Flames know they must follow Friday’s victory over the Montreal Canadiens with a duplicate result when the teams meet again on Saturday night.
The Flames (20-23-3, 43 points) claimed a 4-2 win Friday to start a three-game home set with the Canadiens, a victory that leaves Calgary six points behind Montreal in the battle for the fourth spot in the North Division.
The teams also will meet Monday in Calgary for the ninth and final time this season, and the Flames, who have 10 games remaining overall, can’t afford any setbacks in their head-to-head meetings if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Canadiens (20-16-9, 49 points) have lost three of their past four games and are struggling to hold on to fourth place in the North. The top four teams in each division will advance to the playoffs.
The Flames have won five of seven meetings this season but know those wins won’t matter much if they lose Saturday’s game.
“It’s a big win, but we’ve got to take this day-by-day and we’ve got another one tomorrow,” said forward Sean Monahan, who scored the game-winning goal in his three-point performance Friday. “We’ve got to be ready for it. They’re going to come up with a better game, so we’ve got to up our level, too.”
One key for Calgary will be using their speed on the forecheck, which created offensive opportunities.
“Keep playing fast. That’s when our team’s at our best,” forward Andrew Mangiapane said. “When we’re going at them on all cylinders, coming at them with speed and working together coming up the ice with all five guys, it’s hard to play against.”
The Canadiens, who have 11 games remaining, need to regain their form. They are in a 3-7-0 swoon that has both the Flames and Vancouver Canucks (18-19-3, 39 points) within striking distance of the fourth spot if they don’t turn things around.
“I’m sure there’s some frustration for everyone, but the game’s over,” said goaltender Jake Allen, who is in the breach while No. 1 goalie Carey Price is sidelined due to a concussion. “Yeah, think about it for a few minutes, but get it out of your head and get back it tomorrow. We have a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Turning the Canadiens’ fortunes would be easier with Price and forward Brendan Gallagher, who isn’t expected to return from a fractured thumb until mid-May. Plus, Montreal took another hit Friday when forward Jonathan Drouin was a late scratch due to a non-COVID illness, but the Canadiens must go with who they have in the fold.
The key word from Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme after Friday’s loss was execution, and how the Flames controlled the tempo because of it.
“We have the puck on our stick and we lose it, or give it away, or we throw it behind the option or in the skates and it slows down our game,” Ducharme explained. “We know what’s coming, and we have solutions and we have ways we want to react, but the execution has got to be better.”
Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson said his team has lacked a connection between the forwards and defenders, and therefore suffered costly breakdowns.
“We just didn’t get to our game enough and let them pressure us all over the ice,” Edmundson said. “We didn’t generate enough offense; were just one-and-done in the offensive zone.”
Drouin’s status for Saturday’s game is unknown.
–Field Level Media