CALGARY -- A passing glance at the final score of the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic would indicate a lopsided game. But without a strong effort from Carey Price, especially in the first period, the Montreal Canadiens' 4-0 loss to the Calgary Flames at McMahon Stadium could have been a lot worse.
Price faced 19 shots in the opening 20 minutes and allowed only one goal, a redirection by Rene Bourque during a 5-on-3 power play for the Flames. His early heroics provided the Canadiens with a chance to turn the game around, and they peppered Miikka Kiprusoff with shots early in the second period but couldn't solve him.
"I mean, we gave up 18, 19 shots, something like that in the first. For sure, Carey was big for us," captain Brian Gionta said.
Although Bourque managed to score twice, including a breakaway goal in the second that stretched Calgary's lead to 3-0, he would have recorded the first hat trick in an outdoor NHL game if Price hadn't stopped him on several other quality scoring chances. Bourque did set an NHL outdoor record with 11 shots, six in the first period alone.
"He kept us in the game," defenseman James Wisniewski said. "It was 1-0 and they outshot us I think 20-8, so for us to be able to claw out only down a goal, that was all due to him. We weren't playing our game and he stood on his head and kept us in it."
Unfortunately for Price, with the Canadiens' inability to beat Kiprusoff at the other end it was only a matter of time until the Flames built upon their lead.
"They just threw everything at the net and they got a few good chances and they buried them," Price said.
Price, who ranks second in the League this season in shots faced and saves, credited the Flames for adjusting well right off the bat to how the weather conditions affected the outdoor rink.
"I think they had a game plan coming into this one," he said. "They knew the ice was going to be bad and all they did was keep it simple. They just kept chipping pucks and throwing pucks into areas where they could skate into it, and that's why they generated some good scoring chances."
The Canadiens, by comparison, had generated only three shots by the time Bourque opened the scoring. Several Montreal players talked afterward about how the hard ice wasn't conducive to their style of speed and skill, but Price didn't see the conditions as an excuse.
"We all knew, I thought, coming into this game that we needed to be very simple. They just did a better job of it," he said.