In 33 days the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadians will face off at McMahon Stadium in the 2011 Heritage Classic and they got a taste of each other tonight. The Flames wrapped up their 4-game road trip at the Bell Centre in Montreal, hoping to get at least one point in their 5th straight game. Though they trailed 4-0 midway through the 2nd period, the Flames managed to scramble back with four unanswered goals and force overtime. Unfortunately, that was the best they could do as P.K. Subban beat Henrik Karlsson with a high shot to win the game for the Habs.
After a long hiatus, outdoor NHL hockey will return to Canada on February 20, 2011 and from all indications, it is looking like this will be an annual event in addition to the Winter Classic that is usually played somewhere in the USA. When the Flames and Habs face-off outdoors fans from both teams will get to relive some of the glory days of both franchises. Back in the mid-1980s the Flames and Canadiens met twice in the Stanley Cup Finals, with each team winning the Cup once. Calgary-Montreal match-ups are always good games, and last night’s game was no exception. Despite the Flames struggles this year, there’s no reason to think that the Heritage Classic will be anything but fantastic, and it is heavily rumoured that it will include an alumni game on February 19.
Last night was the warm-up for the big game and Montreal came out gunning and got out to an early lead. Youngster, Lars Eller – who has a talent for scoring random goals against the Flames – opened the scoring 4-and-a-half minutes into the first period. Ex-Flame, Mike Cammalleri scored just after stepping out of the penalty box about 7 minutes later to put the Habs up 2-0. Cammi’s goal was a grim reminder of what Darryl Sutter let get away… but that’s another topic altogether.
The 2nd period started just as bad for the Flames who gave up goals to Andrei Kostitsyn and Jeff Halpern before pulling Mikka Kiprusoff for the 2nd time this road trip. Having Henrik Karlsson in net seemed to give the Flames a bit of a boost and they turned the game around quickly. Rene Bourque scored his 15th goal of the season to get the Flames on the scoreboard about 7 minutes later and Jarome Iginla tipped a Jay Bouwmeester shot into the net shortly afterward to bring them within 2 goals.
In the 3rd period, Calgary played like a team possessed and pulled within one goal when Ales Kotalik blasted a slapshot past Alex Auld 1:37 into the period. Alex Tanguay added the equalizer at 2:56 and from that point it was anyone’s game. Carey Price took over netminding duties from Alex Auld and he had an easy start to his game as Montreal had several good chances to score. Karlsson kept the Flames in the game, and also helped spur his team on with some big saves. The Flames had their chances, but Price kept them from scoring another goal.
The game went to overtime, and after a couple great chances for the Flames, Scott Gomez took the puck into the Flames end. He faked a shot and slid the puck over to P.K. Subban who blasted a laserbeam of a shot over Karlsson’s shoulder and into the net. It seems that Subban did his homework and found The Calgary Tower’s weakness.
Though the Flames didn’t end up with the win, they should be happy with the one point. It really didn’t look like they were going to be able to get there, but they proved their resilience and battled back from a 4-goal deficit to steal a point. With the overtime loss, the Flames finished their 4-game road trip with 6 out of a possible 8 points… and that’s not bad for a struggling team.
When February 20th comes around you can bet that these two teams will be gunning for each other. Montreal is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race and will certainly be there in a month’s time. Calgary may or may not be in the playoff race by mid-February, but you can be sure they will be playing for pride if they are not. Either way, I’ll be there in the stands watching history in the making.