The Calgary Flames narrowed the gap on the Montreal Canadiens in the North Division’s playoff race with a 5-2 win Saturday over the visiting Habs.
Johnny Gaudreau scored twice for the Flames (21-23-3), which beat Montreal for the second time in as many days.
Calgary trails Montreal holding down the fourth and final playoff spot by four points.
The Flames are at home to the Canadiens (20-17-9), who have a game in hand on Calgary, again Monday.
“It’s right there for us,” Gaudreau said. “If we take care of ourselves, and we keep playing the way we’ve been playing the past few games, I think we’ve got a real good shot to make a push here.”
Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie and Rasmus Andersson, with an empty-net goal, also scored for the Flames.
Derek Ryan had two assists. Calgary starter Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves for the win to improve to 6-1 against Montreal this season.
Tyler Toffoli and Nick Suzuki scored for the Canadiens with Erik Gustafsson assisting on both goals.
Canadians star goalie Carey Price is sidelined with a concussion and Jake Allen played in Friday’s 3-2 loss, so Cayden Primeau made his season debut and third career start in Montreal’s net.
The 21-year-old son of former NHLer Keith Primeau stopped 29 shots in the loss.
“It’s frustrating knowing the situation we’re in and the way we’re playing,” Montreal defenceman Jeff Petry said. “We have to find a way to battle this out together.”
Calgary leads the nine-game season series against Montreal 6-2 ahead of Monday’s finale.
The Flames need three regulation wins in this series to improve their odds of taking the Canadiens’ playoff spot.
“I think we’ve played really well against Montreal. I think that’s clear,” Ryan said. “That game on Monday is huge. No bigger than these last two have been.
“On that same note, we’re just trying to find our game and we have to find that game against other teams, not just Montreal, and continue to just play playoff hockey.”
After playing 11 forwards the previous night, Flames head coach Darryl Sutter inserted Buddy Robinson into the lineup.
Josh Leivo went on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list Friday.
But Calgary played five defencemen for most of Saturday’s game because Noah Hanifin was injured in the first period and didn’t return.
He went down hard tangling with Montreal’s Corey Perry along the boards. Hanifin’s left leg bent awkwardly and his shoulder and head made contact with the ice as he went down.
Sutter did not provide an update on Hanifin post-game.
Calgary led 4-2 on Ritchie’s goal at 4:41 of the third period when Montreal turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Ryan dished to Ritchie on a two-on-one.
The Flames took three straight penalties in the second period and Montreal scored on the third at 18:03.
After a Sean Monahan short-handed rush, the Canadiens scored going the other way with Toffoli potting a rebound for his team-leading 24th goal on his 29th birthday.
Gaudreau’s second of the night made it 3-1 for the hosts. Andrew Mangiapane hustled to retrieve a puck that got away from Petry at the boards.
Mangiapane put a backhand pass on Gaudreau’s stick for a tap-in at 5:31 of the second period.
Calgary took a 2-1 lead on Lucic’s goal at 2:16. Ryan won the offensive draw and sent the puck back to the big winger to beat Primeau with a shot through traffic.
Suzuki scored his ninth getting inside position and backhanding his own rebound by Markstrom at 11:32 for the game’s first goal.
Gaudreau drew the hosts even with 31 seconds remaining in the opening period. The winger took a stretch pass from Matthew Tkachuk and scored with a wrist shot far corner.
Notes: Toffoli has three goals in three games … Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin was scratched a second straight game with illness not related to COVID-19, and Montreal forward Paul Byron was also out of the lineup (lower-body) … Gaudreau has two goals and three assists in four games … Calgary is 10-11-0 since Sutter took over as Flames head coach, while Montreal is 12-12-4 since Dominique Ducharme replaced Claude Julien.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2021.