CALGARY – The Montreal Canadiens didn’t let the Flames gain more ground on them with a 2-1 win on Monday in Calgary.
Tyler Toffoli scored the game winner at the end of the second period for his fourth goal in as many games and his 25th team-seed of the season.
Montreal opened a six-point gap on Calgary, which is chasing the Canadiens for fourth and final playoff place in the North Division. Montreal has an ongoing game against the Flames.
Shea Weber also scored for the Canadiens (21-17-9). Canadiens starter Jake Allen made 21 saves for the win.
“It’s a great victory on the road against a team we have to win against, but there is still a lot to do and tough games to come,” Weber said.
Elias Lindholm replied for Calgary (21-24-3). Jacob Markstrom made 22 saves in the loss.
“A frustrating loss for sure,” said Markstrom. “These are such small coincidences, small margins of success.
“I feel like we’ve been on the wrong side of this path too many times this season. It starts with me in close games to keep us in the game and make that extra save.”
The Flames beat Montreal in back-to-back games to start a three-game four-day streak, but they really needed six points in regulation to put pressure on the Canadiens in the playoffs.
The Canadiens’ home stretch schedule is tough with seven of their last nine games against teams ranked higher in the division.
Three of Calgary’s last eight are against higher ranked clubs. The Flames end with four straight games against the Vancouver Canucks.
Calgary won the nine-game series against the Canadiens 6-3.
However, losing the final means the Flames will likely have to win and hope the Habs lose a lot of games to end their season.
“We’d be lying if we say we won’t look at what’s going on around us, but if we don’t win our games it really won’t matter anyway, so we have to pile in a few wins,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano.
The Flames didn’t score on a men’s advantage to start the third period, nor on another power-play halfway through. Both teams scored one in three power play chances in the game.
A shot from Giordano came out of the inside post, but the puck stayed clear at the start of the third. With Markstrom fired for an additional attacker, the hosts were unable to produce the equalizer.
Montreal led 2-1 on Toffoli’s goal at 6:05 pm of the second period.
Joel Armia caged the rebound on Toffoli’s initial shot to send it back for Toffoli to score on a second attempt, while Markstrom got tangled up with teammate Chris Tanev.
“I would be lying if I said there was no luck with the puck or some twists and turns some nights, but it was a fun race,” said Toffoli.
Calgary even drew 1-1 with a power play goal at 12:17 of the first period. Lindholm registered Johnny Gaudreau’s pass in the lunge and beat Allen with a sharp-angled wrist flick.
With Calgary’s Derek Ryan and Giordano serving the minors, Montreal scored a 5-3 goal at 9:59. Weber put a high slap on Markstrom’s glove.
Canadiens right winger Cole Caulfield made his NHL debut on Monday. Montreal drafted him in the first round (15th overall) in 2019.
Caulfield won this year’s Hobey Baker Award as the best NCAA men’s hockey player. He had four shots on goal in 15 minutes 40 seconds of ice time on Monday.
“It’s a special day for me,” said Caulfield.
“If it feels good to get rid of it and now, just every day, trying to improve and grow as a player, keep helping this team in any way you can and keep getting big wins. ”
The Flames announced ahead of the game that defenseman Noah Hanifin is out for the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Nikita Nesterov was part of the roster.
Notes: Lindholm has six goals and four assists in his last 10 games. . . Gaudreau had two goals and four assists in five games. . . Montreal forwards Jonathan Drouin (non-COVID disease) and Paul Byron (lower body injury) were scratched for a second straight game. . . Calgary forward Josh Leivo remained on the NHL’s COVID protocol list.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 26, 2021.