Montreal Canadiens' Josh Anderson scores past Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich as defenceman Juuso Valimaki looks on during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Thursday, January 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canadiens top Flames 4-2 in home opener, remain unbeaten in regulation this season

Canadiens top Flames 4-2 in home opener, remain unbeaten in regulation this season

MONTREAL — After opening their season in style with an impressive six-game road trip, the Montreal Canadiens looked just as comfortable on home ice Thursday night.

Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber, Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli scored as the Canadiens rolled to a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames in their home opener at Bell Centre.

“Everything is just clicking pretty good,” said Montreal forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. “It’s the feeling. Everything is just feeling right at the moment.”

Kotkaniemi and Jonathan Drouin had two assists apiece as the Canadiens (5-0-2) remained unbeaten in regulation time this season.

Calgary’s Milan Lucic ended Carey Price’s shutout bid with 78 seconds left in the third period. Rasmus Andersson added a second power-play goal for the Flames with 22.7 seconds to play.

It was the first of nine meetings this year between the North Division teams.

The Canadiens looked fresh but a tad scattered on occasion after returning to game action for the first time since Saturday’s 5-2 win in Vancouver. The Flames, coming off a 4-3 loss to Toronto on Tuesday, also had some early zip but an early Juuso Valimaki hooking call proved costly.

With the penalty winding down, Kotkaniemi found Corey Perry stationed by the side of the crease. Perry made a deft no-look backpass to Gallagher, who one-timed it in at 10:07.

The assist left the veteran Perry, who signed a one-year deal with the Canadiens last month, just one point shy of the 800-mark for his career.

Another Montreal power-play goal made it 2-0 at 15:39. Weber fired a shot from inside the point that was going wide but deflected off Valimaki’s stick and left Calgary netminder David Rittich frozen.

“Just little things, little breakdowns cost us a couple goals there,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “I thought from there on we started taking way too many risks through the neutral zone and against a good-structured team, they’re going to make you pay.”

Kotkaniemi flashed his speed midway through the second period to set up a 2-on-1 break. His snapshot was stopped but Anderson swatted the chest-high rebound into the net at 8:21.

Price, meanwhile, was steady when called upon. The Flames had some chances but couldn’t deliver any sustained pressure.

Montreal had all four lines rolling and its defensive pairs were steady too.

“It’s definitely a luxury, it’s definitely something that obviously every coach likes to have,” Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said of team depth. “Right now we’ve got that and for the most part we’re a pretty healthy hockey club. So hopefully we stay that way.”

Calgary had the man advantage for the first time late in the second period but Toffoli put the game out of reach with a short-handed goal at 19:35. It was his team-leading sixth goal of the season.

Nick Suzuki flipped the puck high out of the Montreal zone and an unmarked Toffoli tracked it down before jamming it between Rittich’s legs.

Calgary outshot Montreal 25-21.

“I think we were very opportunistic tonight,” Weber said. “I don’t think that was our best effort by any means. I think we’ve got a lot of room to improve here.

“That’s a good sign obviously because we’re playing well enough to win and we’re capitalizing.”

The Flames (2-3-1) will continue their five-game road trip with another matchup against Montreal on Saturday night.

Front-line workers introduced the Montreal players before the game. The final introduction was made by NFL lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who received his medical degree from McGill University in 2018.

Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out of the football season to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, has been working at a Montreal long-term care facility.

Notes: Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk dropped the gloves for a brief scrap with Montreal’s Ben Chiarot midway through the third period. … Anderson has four goals on the season, one more than Gallagher and two more than Weber. … The Canadiens challenged Calgary’s first goal, hoping the play was offside, but to no avail.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2021.

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