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

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MONTREAL — Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber, Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli scored as Montreal defeated the Calgary Flames 4-2 in the Canadiens' home opener at Bell Centre on Thursday night.

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

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

It was the first of nine meetings between the North Division teams. The Flames (2-3-1) will continue their five-game road trip with another matchup against Montreal on Saturday night.

The Canadiens looked fresh but a tad scattered at times 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.

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 occasional chances but couldn't deliver any sustained pressure.

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.

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 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.

The Canadian Press