Canadiens aim to fend off motivated Flames

NHL

The Montreal Canadiens and visiting Calgary Flames skate into their Wednesday night showdown each on the heels of recording a clutch victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Canadiens posted a 4-2 win over the visiting Maple Leafs on Monday, while the Flames earned a 3-2 overtime victory in Toronto the following day.

Their wins provided much-needed momentum for the first of their five remaining clashes with each other in the season series. The result of that stretch may very well determine which team claims the fourth and final playoff position in the North Division.

The Canadiens sit in fourth place in the division, six points ahead of the Flames with three games in hand. However, Calgary has won three of four meetings this season.

The clubs meet twice in the next three days and then have a three-game set scheduled in Calgary on April 23, 24 and 26.

That said, the Canadiens are aware they can make a huge statement in their home clashes on Wednesday and Friday.

“That’s our goal,” said Montreal defenseman Brett Kulak, who was originally drafted by the Flames in 2012 and played 101 games for Calgary before being traded to Montreal on Oct. 1, 2018.

“We know what’s at stake and the games remaining against Calgary. They’re all going to be huge. (Monday) was a step in the right direction for us. We know, when we’re playing our style and we’re all on the same page and on the top of our game, we can beat anyone in the league.”

The Canadiens, who snapped a three-game losing skid on Monday, may receive a boost in time for the clash. Forward Joel Armia could return to action after a stint on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

Former Hart and Vezina Trophy recipient goalie Carey Price (lower body) is scheduled to practice on Wednesday but is not expected to return to game action.

The Flames are looking for their first three-game winning streak in a month. Their victories over the Edmonton Oilers (5-0, on Saturday) and Maple Leafs followed a four-game losing skid and disastrous stretch in which they dropped eight of nine games — all in regulation.

They are well aware of what is at stake, and they must have a playoff mentality every game until they either punch a ticket to the playoffs or are eliminated.

“We know we have an uphill battle to try and make the playoffs here,” said Johnny Gaudreau, who scored 36 seconds into overtime on Tuesday. “To get two wins against Edmonton and Toronto, probably two of the more skilled teams in the North Division, and now we get the opportunity against the Canadiens … five times in the remainder of the season. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot to climb out of this.”

Knowing the importance of every game, a major key to the Toronto win came in the third period when the Flames killed Rasmus Andersson’s double-minor for high sticking.

“That was a huge kill for us,” said Gaudreau, who has posted consecutive multi-point performances for the first time this season.

“They’ve got some talented players. To be able to kill all four minutes late in the third, really impressive, and great saves from (goalie Jacob Markstrom).”

–Field Level Media

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