Canadiens pad lead over Flames with crucial victory

Jake Allen made 28 saves as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1

Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme had a brief chat with Tyler Toffoli before Friday night’s game.

The team’s leading scorer hadn’t scored in six games.

Toffoli responded, scoring twice to lift the Canadiens to a 2-1 victory that snapped the Flames’ three-game winning streak and put some breathing room on Calgary for the fourth playoff spot in the North Division.

“An offensive guy like him . . . I could see he was getting frustrated which is normal and which is good to see a guy that wants to make the difference,” Ducharme said. “And sometimes just taking a step back, and going back, doing small plays and being patient enough to find his pockets to get pucks, to be in good position to shoot.

“He’s such a smart player. He can really analyze well what he’s doing from one game to the other, what works, so you don’t need to talk to him that often. We had a good conversation, wasn’t that long and I really liked his game.”

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Elias Lindholm scored for the Flames (19-22-3).

Coming off a 4-1 loss to Calgary on Wednesday, the Canadiens (19-13-9) had been feeling the heat from the Flames, but Friday’s win put them six points ahead of Calgary for the fourth playoff spot.

“We beat a team that’s breathing down our necks a little bit here in the playoff hunt. So it was a big win for us,” Toffoli said.

The night marked another solid performance by Montreal’s backup goalie Jake Allen, who stopped 28 shots in the win, including a spectacular diving stick save in the second, stretching across an empty net to just deflect a point-blank shot from Lindholm.

“He’s been playing incredible,” Toffoli said of Allen. “Unfortunate, I don’t think we’ve had our best games and he’s kept us in all of them.”

Allen put on a show in a scoreless first period at the Bell Centre, turning aside 13 shots from the Flames. The Habs had six shots on net.

Toffoli scored his 20th of the season at 9:32 of the second off a great feed from Nick Suzuki who circled around the net to find the Habs sniper. Montreal’s top scorer finished with a wrist shot past Jacob Markstrom to reach 20 goals in back-to-back seasons, and in five seasons total.

“I played against (Toffoli) a lot in the West,” Allen said. “ You could just tell he’s always had that scoring tough, he sort of just knows where to go. And when he gets his chances a majority of the time, they’re going in or they’re coming close to going in.

“He’s a smart hockey player. He’s not the fastest guy in the world by any means. But if you have a better mind that way, you don’t really need to be fast. You just got to know where the puck is, anticipate the play . . . he’s done a hell of a job for us this year.”

Calgary also hit two posts in the period. Both teams had eight shots on net.

Lindholm got the equalizer and his 11th goal of the season at 6:30 of the third with a wild swing-around backhand shot from his knees that glanced off defenceman Ben Chiarot’s skate and in. Chiarot was playing his first game back after missing 15 with a broken hand, injured during a fight.

Toffoli got the game-winner at 15:45 of the third after deflecting in a pass from Joel Armia over the glove of Markstrom.

The Canadiens and Flames clash three more times this month in Calgary.

The Canadiens announced earlier Friday they’d called up forward Cole Caufield from the AHL’s Laval Rocket and put him on the taxi squad. Caufield, who played for the University of Wisconsin, won the Hobey Baker Award last week as the top player in the NCAA Division 1.

The Canadiens have also called up goalie Cayden Primeau from the Rocket on an emergency basis to back up Allen.

Carey Price missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury, and Ducharme told reporters after Friday morning’s skate that he wasn’t ready to return to the lineup.

Ducharme said Price could play Saturday when the Habs host the Ottawa Senators.

The Flames are at home to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

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