It took 13 seconds for Sean Monahan to make an impact in his return to the Saddledome. He took the opening draw for the Montreal Canadiens and reminded Calgary Flames fans what it was like when he was one of the more exciting members of their franchise.
He won the draw, then found himself in a race with goaltender Jacob Markstrom as he sped up the ice in pursuit of a loose puck.
The Flames goalie technically won the race, with a wild slide that almost took him to the blueline. But Markstrom ultimately lost on the play. Unable to smother the puck, he watched helplessly from the ice as Monahan sent a pass to rookie Juraj Slafkovsky for the easy goal in the vacated net.
It set the Habs up for a 2-1 win over the Flames to cap off an extremely emotional day for Monahan, who was traded away for nothing but cap space this summer after nine seasons with the franchise.
His well-deserved tribute video played during the next TV timeout, and the crowd roared for their former hero for 45 seconds or so. The standing ovation must have put a knot in his stomach considering how emotional he was thinking Flames fans earlier in the day.
“It was good. The fans were always awesome to me. I appreciate the noise they made for me in support. It was a great video, so it was a nice touch,” Monahan said post-game.
“You get a lot of emotions coming into the game. Once I stepped on the ice for warmups, I was pretty nervous to be honest. It was the most nervous I’ve been for a game in a long time. I’m just happy we came out with the win. It was a lot of fun.”
Perhaps the volume got a little extra boost because of the many Montreal Canadiens fans in the building — as is always the case when the Habs are in town.
They got to cheer for Monahan again on the game’s winning goal in the third period. The Cole Caufield powerplay marker in the third period featured No. 91 with the secondary assist from behind Markstrom’s net.
Monahan found Nick Suzuki on the wall. Suzuki snapped a pass across to the team’s top sniper and Caufield made it count in his 100th NHL game.
Thanks to 45 saves by Montreal goaltender Jake Allen, the pair was all the Habs would need.
The Flames only managed to get one past Allen – a second-period tally from Elias Lindholm on a setup from Jonathan Huberdeau.
Nothing was going to spoil Monahan’s night. And nothing was going to keep him from playing, including the foot injury that forced him to walk around in a hard boot on Thursday.
“No chance,” he said when asked if there was any chance he could miss the game. “It’s a special night. One I’ll always remember.”
He talked about how weird it was being on the other bench, how he tried to talk to everyone on the ice without much of a response, and how expensive the win was.
He spent a lot on tickets for friends he made during his tenure here. And of course the money on the board for the players and trainers as is customary during a game against a former team.
“It’s worth every penny,” he said with a smirk.”
It was just the latest in a series of homecomings with Matthew Tkachuk visiting earlier in the week. Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weeger had a stop in Florida 10 days earlier, too. They all talked about turning the page and closing a chapter.
Not so for Monahan.
“I don’t think so,” he said when asked if this closes the chapter on Calgary. “Calgary’s got a special place in my heart and it always will. Any time I come back here I think I’ll have that same kind of feeling.
“It’s always going to be a lot of fun to come back here and play.”