About Last Night: Habs lose 5-2 to Flames to begin Western swing

Montreal could find themselves in the bottom five of the league standings after the five-game road trip.

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The Canadiens gave up two power-play goals to the Calgary Flames in a 5-2 loss at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.

The Habs were without head coach Martin St. Louis. Earlier in the day, the team announced St. Louis would be taking an indefinite leave for family reasons. Trevor Letowski will serve as interim coach.

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Montreal mounted a partial comeback after being down 3-0, but 55 seconds into the third period, Juraj Slafkovsky was charged with goalie interference. Calgary immediately responded to regain a two-goal lead at 4-2 and the Habs failed to get any closer after that.

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In the first, Nick Suzuki made a nice twirl along the boards to kickstart a 2-on-1.

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Goalie Dustin Wolf was a major story on the night. He made 36 saves, including this one on Cole Caufield.

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Montreal’s streak of 19 straight successful penalty kills came to an end when Mikael Backlund tipped MacKenzie Weegar’s shot past Cayden Primeau for the 1-0 lead.

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Just 15 seconds into the second period, Backlund scored again for the 200th goal of his career.

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The Flames looked on their way to a rout at 7:41 of the second when Martin Pospisil gave the home team a 3-0 lead.

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Montreal responded a little under three minutes later. Caufield ended his 13-game goalless drought to put the Habs on the board, down 3-1. Suzuki and Slafkovsky had the assists.

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After failing to score on a power play, the Habs pulled to within one at even-strength. David Savard’s point shot sailed through traffic and past Wolf to make it 3-2 headed into the third period.

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It didn’t take long in the third for Calgary to pull away. After Slafkovsky was sent to the box 55 seconds in for goalie interference, Nazem Kadri scored 11 seconds later to re-establish Calgary’s two-goal lead at 4-2. It was their second power-play goal of the night.

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The Slafkovsky penalty seemed to deflate the Habs, who were unable to mount much of a comeback the rest of the way. Daniil Miromanov, acquired from Vegas in the Noah Hanifin trade deadline blockbuster, scored his second as a Flame to put the game away at 5-2. That’s how it ended.

Mike Matheson and Kaiden Guhle were each minus-3, and it showed on Hockey Stat Cards’ impact card for the night.

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For a while, it made sense to pair up the team’s two best defencemen, but with Guhle forced to play his off-hand, it might be time to split them up to ensure the younger rearguard plays a role that best maximizes his skill set. Speaking of defencemen who could one day play the right side naturally, 2023 first-round pick David Reinbacher just had his season in Switzerland come to an end. He’s now free to come over and play in Canada.

The Slafkovsky penalty got the Liveblog commenters talking. The officials get a lot of grief across all fanbases, but it sure did look like Slafkovsky was pushed into Wolf by Weegar. Of course, it could’ve all been moot had the Habs killed the penalty. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Last night was the first game in a difficult Western road swing for the Habs. They’re in Edmonton on Tuesday, followed by games against the Canucks, Kraken and Avalanche. As it stands, Montreal is tied with Arizona and one point ahead of Ottawa. Depending on how things go, the Canadiens could find themselves in the bottom five of league standings after the road trip.

3. “You get bad calls for and against all seasons. Montreal got a couple of bad ones against them tonight. But regardless you have to kill them off and move ahead. Montreal was unable to do that. Lost assignments and really poor defensive coverage is what really cost them the game. Wolf had a better game than Primeau.” -Doug Kirkby

2. “With all the 1 goal games we’ve had, one might say this team has no quit, always fight to the end, never say die, etc. … but not tonight. amazing how one bad penalty (or is that bad call) can change the whole game.” -Haari Meech

1. “Really thought we’d have a superb third. I don’t often agree with those who say that refs changed a game, but I believe that happened this game. The Habs were playing well and that terrible call totally changed the game.” -Marc Taillefer

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