With all the hype surrounding the Heritage Classic, you could forgive the Calgary Flames for being a bit nervous heading towards today’s big game. But if they were nervous the Flames didn’t show it. The boys from the Stampede City continued their torrid pace by posting an impressive 4-0 shutout victory over the Montreal Canadiens in front of 41,022 frozen yet happy spectators at McMahon Stadium.
With the ice conditions being less than ideal, the Flames opted for a simple game plan. No fancy plays, no showboat stick-handling, just a simple dump and chase game and crashing the net. The plan worked beautifully as the Flames did a much better job adjusting to the conditions than the Canadiens.
The Flames totally dominated the first period out-shooting the Habs 19-8. Rene Bourque potted the only goal in the first converting a nice pass from Alex Tanguay on a two man advantage.
The Habs tried to respond in the second as they peppered the Calgary net with 21 shots in the middle frame. But Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff was equal to the task as he stopped all 21 shots in the period. The Flames countered with 2 goals in 2:02 of the period. Anton Babchuk fired home his ninth of the year as he whistled a shot past Habs goalie Carey Price from the high slot. Then Bourque got his second of the game and 19th of the season as he raced down the left side, cut across the goal and slipped a backhand past the fallen Price.
The third period was a solid defensive effort by the Flames as the Habs couldn’t penetrate the sturdy Calgary blueline. Tanguay wrapped up the scoring as he finished off a lovely goalmouth pass from captain Jarome Iginla.
Kiprusoff made 39 saves for the shutout while the Flames improve their record to 31-22-8 and climbed up to a tie for 6th place in the Western Conference standings.
Overall the event was a tremendous success. The city of Calgary got to strut its stuff in front of a National TV audience and they did an excellent job. The league should be happy with success financially and exposure wise. The Flames will be happy with an excellent on ice performance and a crucial 2 points in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
Three Stars. 1. Rene Bourque with 2 goals on the night. 2. Kiprusoff with the shutout. 3. Alex Tanguay with a goal and an assist.