CALGARY — Byron Froese went so long without an NHL goal that he wasn’t sure how to celebrate.
Froese scored his first goal in 22 months and also added an assist as the Montreal Canadiens hung on for a 3-2 win on Friday night against the Calgary Flames.
"It feels really good," said the 26-year-old, whose last goal came as a Toronto Maple Leaf on February 20, 2016. "From the celebration, you could see, I couldn’t think about anything else but to raise my hands."
Froese opened the scoring 10:45 into the first period when he deflected Jordie Benn‘s point shot past Mike Smith. He then assisted on a goal by Nicolas Deslauriers at 8:44 of the second as the visitors went ahead 2-0. Froese curled out of the corner and fired a shot on goal that Smith stopped, but Deslauriers batted in the rebound out of mid-air for his third goal in two games.
The line of Froese, Daniel Carr and Deslauriers make up three of Montreal’s top four scorers for December with 23 combined points.
"You can’t call them a fourth line anymore because they’re not playing like one," said Montreal coach Claude Julien. "They’ve been doing that for a while. They just play the right way. They’re extremely solid and strong along the walls in both ends."
Froese has seven points (one goal, six assists) in eight December games. This after he had just two goals and five points through his first 72 career NHL games.
"Once we had that little bit of success that first game with Carr and (Deslauriers), you grip the stick a little bit looser and feel more confident and more comfortable," Froese said.
Brendan Gallagher, endding a six-game pointless streak, also scored for Montreal (16-15-4). The Canadiens play in Edmonton on Saturday.
Micheal Ferland and Matthew Tkachuk scored in the third period for Calgary (18-15-3). The Flames are the only NHL team not in action on Saturday and don’t play again until Dec. 28 in San Jose.
"There’s no system for outworked," vented Flames coach Glen Gulutzan. "We’ve put together a good string of games, but the one that irks you the most is the ones when you get out-battled and that’s tonight and I’m not happy."
Down 3-0 and having turned in a listless effort to that point, Calgary finally got on the scoreboard at 9:42 of the third when Ferland knocked Michael Frolik’s rebound past Carey Price.
Calgary drew to within one at 18:07 with a power-play goal from Tkachuk. It came after the Flames had also pulled their goaltender for a 6-on-4. But they would get no closer despite a furious push in the final minute.
"They outworked us all night," said Flames forward Sam Bennett. "They came in with a road mindset, a battle mindset and we didn’t match it."
Calgary was outshot 35-23 on the night, the first time in 12 games they’ve been outshot.
It was the 12th start in a row for Price since returning from a lower-body injury. The Canadiens are 8-3-1 in that span.
"I thought we played really well. Our forecheck was good. I thought we were utilizing our speed and getting on top of their guys and killing plays off the get-go," Price said.
With his 21 stops, Price improves to 11-10-2. Smith had 32 saves for Calgary to fall to 14-12-3.
Notes: Montreal D Shea Weber (foot) returned after missing one game and LW Artturi Lehkonen (lower body) returned after missing 16 games… The loss breaks a streak of six straight years in which the Flames had won their last game before Christmas… Calgary D Travis Hamonic (groin) was placed on injured reserve. Taking Hamonic’s spot in the line-up was Matt Bartkowski, who had sat 19 of the previous 20 games as a healthy scratch.