Miikka Kiprusoff claimed his forth shutout of the season to help the Calgary Flames to a convincing win over the Montreal Canadiens in the 2011 Heritage Classic.
In freezing conditions at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, the 41,022 shivering fans saw goals from Rene Bourque and former Habs forward Alex Tanguay help the Flames run away with an easy victory against the disappointing Canadiens.
Kiprusoff’s 39 saves weren’t always spectacular as Montreal failed to produce many easy scoring chances. Calgary’s special teams were deadly as Bourque opened the scoring with a 5-on-3 power play goal in the first period.
“The difference in the hockey game was the special teams,” said Habs coach Jacques Martin after the game. “The shorthanded goal was probably the turning point because I felt that we had good momentum, we had created some good pressure, some good scoring chances – and after that it kind of turned around.”
Carey Price was under immense pressure throughout, and despite a mini revival from the Habs at the start of the second period, a shorthanded goal from Flames defenseman Anton Babchuk turned the game, and another great finish from Bourque shortly after sealed the emphatic score-line.
The ice was always going to be a problem, and Montreal found it extremely difficult to adapt to the choppy conditions. The Habs are renowned for their quick counter-attacks, and it was never going to be successful on an ice surface so delicate that no zamboni could be used in case the surface cracked.
Calgary kept their game simple, and a late power play strike from Tanguay kept Calgary’s march towards the playoffs in order.
The Flames currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference with 70 points, and are within touching distance of the San Jose Sharks, who reside in forth place with 72 points.
On the other hand, the Habs still haven’t won a game in western Canada since the first Heritage Classic in 2003, when they downed the Edmonton Oilers. The Canadiens complete their road-trip on Tuesday night when they take on the Western Conference leading Vancouver Canucks. It is a long haul back to Montreal with nothing to show for their efforts, piling more pressure on to the Habs to produce something special in Vancouver.
Despite many Habs seemingly overawed by the ocassion, Price kept the score respectable with some magnificent saves.
“The ice conditions were a little rough but Calgary played exactly the way they needed to play,” said Price, who made 33 saves in the losing effort. “They knew the type of game that was coming and they executed their game plan.”