A rookie forward and a journeyman goalie have carried the Calgary Flames to an impressive start in the young NHL season.
Sean Monahan had a goal and an assist, and Joey MacDonald made 33 saves in the Flames’ 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
"Obviously it’s a great start," said Monahan, who has scored in three straight games and with five points is tied with Jiri Hudler for the team scoring lead. "We haven’t lost a game in regulation.
"It’s been a lot of fun. I’m getting more comfortable every day."
Calgary coach Bob Hartley praised the effort of the young center, who will turn 19 on Saturday.
"I sometimes pinch myself and wonder if I need to check his birth certificate, the poise he is showing for an 18-year-old kid," Hartley said. "He is having fun, he is bringing passion, he is bringing excitement and he’s learning. He is a pretty special kid."
Sven Baertschi and Curtis Glencross also scored for Calgary (2-0-2). The last time the Flames earned at least one point in their first four games was in 2009 when they had a 4-0 start.
MacDonald made his third consecutive start. He backstopped Calgary to a 4-3 win at Columbus on Friday and helped the Flames salvage a point in a 5-4 overtime loss at home to Vancouver on Sunday.
"We stuck with it," said MacDonald, who played for the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings before the Flames claimed him off waivers last season. "It’s a learning experience for the young guys to show them how important it is. They came out hard."
P.K. Subban had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens (1-2), who hadn’t played since a 4-1 home win over Philadelphia on Saturday.
"We weren’t ready to play right from the start, including myself," Subban said. "We can continue to say it’s the beginning of the season and we’re just getting things going, but we’ve got to come out better than that.
"We knew this was a hungry team, we knew they were a young team. They had some young players in the lineup and we’ve got to take advantage of that. I don’t think we did a good enough job."
Lars Ellar recorded his fourth goal and sixth point of the season for Montreal. Carey Price made 22 saves.
Both teams were 1 for 3 on the power play.
Despite being outshot 12-4 in the first period, the Flames took a 2-0 lead.
Monahan opened the scoring 9:09 in when he tapped in a rebound behind Price.
Monahan started the play with a behind-the-back pass to Lee Stempniak, who fired a shot that Price stopped with his right blocker. The puck bounced right to Monahan, who drove straight to the net after making the pass.
"That’s always a good feeling," Monahan said. "There’s nowhere else to put it than in the back of the net. I jumped all over that, and I was pretty excited."
Baertschi scored his first of the season with 1:27 remaining in the first when he tapped a cross-crease pass from Monahan behind a sprawling Price. Hudler helped set up the play by jarring the puck loose from defenseman Jarred Tinordi with a big hit behind the net.
Early in the second, MacDonald made a right pad stop on a shot shoveled his way by Danny Briere. At the other end of the ice, Price slid across to turn aside a shot by Glencross.
During a Montreal man advantage, MacDonald stopped Subban’s point blast and then stacked his pads to deny back-to-back shots by Andrei Markov.
"It’s just battling," MacDonald said. "You never give up on the puck. It might not be the nicest style, but you’ve got to stop the puck. When your team sees those saves, it kind of gives them a little momentum. I think we kind of built off that."
Glencross put Calgary ahead 3-0 when he tipped a point shot by Dennis Wideman past Price with 3:38 left in the second.
Just 84 seconds later, with Calgary captain Mark Giordano in the penalty box for tripping, Subban fired a point shot into the top corner to make it 3-1.
Ellar pulled Montreal within a goal 10:40 into the third with his fourth goal of the season. Subban let go a shot from the point that went wide, but it bounced off the boards and onto the stick of Ellar, who swatted the puck into a wide-open net.
The Canadiens pressed hard to tie it, but Subban took a cross-checking penalty with 1:49 remaining.
"We worked so hard in the third and in the second to bring ourselves into striking distance of tying the game up," Subban said. "Right when we were about to turn the corner, you take that penalty."
NOTES: Montreal forward Rene Bourque played in his 500th NHL game. Bourque started his career with Chicago and played 183 games with the Blackhawks. He spent 249 games with the Flames and the last 68 with the Canadiens. … Hudler’s next goal will be his 100th in the NHL. … Stempniak and Hudler have posted at least one point in all four Flames games this season.