MONTREAL — Sean Monahan and the Calgary Flames were determined to celebrate a victory after goalie Niklas Backstrom‘s first NHL game in 14 months.
Monahan had two goals and an assist, and Backstrom made 21 saves in his first game since Jan. 13, 2015 to lead Calgary to a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Sunday.
“It was huge,” Monahan said. “He’s worked so hard for us. He comes in every day like a pro and obviously that’s a big win and we want to get that one for him.”
Backstrom was acquired in a trade from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 29.
“I’ve been been here for three weeks but it feels like I’ve been here for many years,” Backstrom said. “The guys have really welcomed me well here.”
Joe Colborne and Johnny Gaudreau scored, and defenseman Dougie Hamilton had three assists for the Flames (31-35-6), who began a three-game road trip following a 3-1-2 homestand.
Michael McCarron scored his first NHL goal for Montreal (33-34-6) to end Backstrom’s shutout at 12:57 of the third period. Mike Condon made 30 saves.
“(Backstrom)’s been nothing but a pro coming here, working really hard every day,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “He doesn’t say a word, just goes out there and works hard and you can learn a lot from guys like that and it showed out on the ice today for sure.”
The Canadiens had gone 112:57 without a goal when McCarron scored. Montreal forward Paul Byron scored in overtime for a 3-2 win at the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.
“It was pretty exciting, for sure,” said McCarron, who was Montreal’s first-round pick (No. 25) in the 2013 NHL Draft. “Everybody was super-excited for me. It was a one-of-a-kind moment and it only happens once so it’s exciting, but at the same time, it’s not the outcome we wanted, but it’s my first NHL goal and I was pretty excited.”
Montreal has lost four of five to fall below .500 for the first time this season.
“Kudos to (Backstrom), who hasn’t played a game in a year-and-a-half,” Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu said. “He played a great game. I thought we made him look pretty good at some points, but there were definitely opportunities for us to jump on him.”
Colborne scored his 15th goal of the season at 16:06 of the second period to give Calgary a 1-0 lead.
Monahan made it 2-0 with 57 seconds left in the second when he redirected Hamilton’s slap pass from the right point past Condon’s outstretched right pad.
Gaudreau scored his Flames-leading 27th goal of the season at 10:38 of the third to increase the lead to 3-0.
Monahan’s second goal of the game, his 26th of the season, made it 4-0 on a power play at 12:21. He has five goals and nine points in the past six games.
Backstrom alertly made a save when Giordano put a backhand directly on his own goal when he was trying to clear the puck back off the end boards in the second.
“It was a high flip and I knew that I had a lot of pressure on me and I couldn’t really find the puck, so I figured I’d try to go D-to-D but I was way off in my sights,” Giordano said. “It was actually a pretty good shot five-hole; if he wasn’t ready it was in the net for sure, so we had a little bit of a laugh over that one.”
Giordano skated past Backstrom afterward to bump fists.
“I actually saw the puck was rolling and it just rolled in front of him, so it was a tough play for him,” Backstrom said. “I think he just told me he wanted to have a shot on net.”
Goalie Jonas Hiller will start for Calgary against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.
Flames coach Bob Hartley will start Backstrom at Minnesota on Thursday; he is the Wild’s leader in games played by a goalie (409), wins (194) and shutouts (28).
‘”Everyone thought that basically he had played his last NHL game, and he still wants to play and he showed it to us right from day one,” Hartley said. “He was patient, he was a great team guy, and to get a big win, I think that sets the stage very well for his return in Minnesota.”
Calgary had five defenseman at their morning skate after Deryk Engelland left for the birth of his second child. Defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon was recalled from Stockton of the American Hockey League on Sunday and played 14:37.
Joel Hanley made his NHL debut for Montreal. The 24-year-old defenseman was recalled from St. John’s of the AHL on an emergency basis Sunday because defenseman Victor Bartley is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Hanley was the 13th defenseman to play for the Canadiens this season.
Canadiens forward Jacob De La Rose replaced forward Sven Andrighetto, who is also day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Montreal hosts the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.