CALGARY — Sean Monahan's feel-good return to Calgary on Thursday felt even better afterwards.
The former Flame assisted on both Montreal goals - including Cole Caufield's game-winner in the third period - while Jake Allen had a season-high 45 saves as the Canadiens won 2-1.
"It was special,” said Monahan, who played nine seasons with Calgary before being traded last summer. “You get a lot of emotions coming up into the game. Once I stepped on the ice in warm-up I was pretty nervous to be honest, I was the most nervous I've been for a long time. I'm just happy we came out with a win.”
Monahan was recognized with a video tribute during a first-period TV timeout. He waved to the crowd during a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute.
"I just want to say thank you,” said Monahan. “I came in here as an 18-year-old kid and grew up here. They always had my back. We had ups and downs while I was here and they always supported me. That was a special tribute and one I'm definitely going to watch a few times."
After being selected sixth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Monahan made the team out of his first training camp and never looked back. He played 656 games while battling injuries in his final few seasons including a second hip surgery last spring.
“Calgary's got a special place in my heart and it always will,” Monahan said. “I've got a lot of relationships with people outside of the game, too. It's always going to be a lot of fun to come back here and play."
His teammates knew how much the game meant to the 28-year-old native of Brampton, Ont.
“Whenever you go back to a team that you have a lot of memories with, not a couple years but a good nine years here, very successful years for him, you want to do it right,” said Allen. “It didn't matter how we got it done. It put a smile on his face."
Known for his goal-scoring prowess in Calgary with his 212 goals ranking eighth in franchise history, he was a playmaker on this night.
Monahan earned an assist on the opening goal just 13 seconds into the game off a misplay by Jacob Markstrom, who charged out of his net after a loose puck and went into a sideways slide.
Monahan was able to sidestep the Flames goalie, avoiding a collision, but Markstrom knocked the puck right to Slafkovsky who stepped around the netminder and fired it into the vacant net.
Elias Lindholm tied it for the Flames in the final minute of the second, but Montreal's struggling power play produced the game-winner at 6:29 of the third.
With Andrew Mangiapane off for roughing, the Canadiens needed just 31 seconds to convert with Caufield leaning into a one-timer after being set up on a cross-ice pass by Nick Suzuki.
Montreal entered play ranked second-last in the NHL and in a 1-for-17 tailspin with the man advantage.
Markstrom has struggled at times this season. Coach Darryl Sutter rewarded goaltender Dan Vladar for his strong play of late with starts in three of the last four games.
Markstrom accepted full blame for the early mistake, which has been a season-long trend after a year in which he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
"I thought the guys did a great job and once again, I've got to be better. I suck right now," said Markstrom, "Can't start behind every game."
Markstrom's early miscue drew the ire of the home fans, too, who responded with a Bronx cheer on his next save that came on a shot from a long way out.
Sutter wasn't pleased with Mangiapane's undisciplined penalty when he and Markstrom both went after Josh Anderson after an icing call.
“The whistle went and I have no idea why we retaliated. There's two of us retaliated there for no reason,” said Sutter, shaking his head. “I can see if it's a three-, four-goal differential game, but not in a 1-1 game, for sure.”
Montreal (12-10-1) has won its last three road games and seven of its last 11 games overall. Calgary (10-10-3) has won just one of its last five.
“It's tough,” said Lindholm. “Obviously, we tried hard in the third but I think we can still do a better job with traffic. I think their goalie saw a lot of pucks, but we've just got to bear down more.”
Allen improved to 7-8-0 while Markstrom, who was only tested 19 times, saw his record fall to 8-6-2.
Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (lower body) missed his first game of the season. AHL call-up Rem Pitlick didn't arrive in time to play so defenceman Chris Wideman took some shifts at forward.
Canadiens: Game 2 of Montreal's four-game road trip goes Saturday night in Edmonton.
Flames: Calgary's five-game homestand continues Saturday against the Washington Capitals.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press