Flyers hold serve on Habs
The Philadelphia Flyers scored the first three goals of the game and then held on for a 3-2 home victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, with the teams set to meet the next night in Quebec.
Jeff Carter scored twice for Philadelphia, with defenceman Matt Carle notching the crucial third goal early in the second period.
The Flyers have won three games in a row and passed Montreal for sixth in the Eastern Conference. The teams meet in their last game before the Olympic break on Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada at Bell Centre (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
"You want to go into the break feeling good about yourselves, and playing your best hockey," said Flyers defendeman Chris Pronger. "We were able to gut it out tonight."
There could be bad blood in the return engagement. Flyers forward Darroll Powe flattened Jaroslav Spacek into the boards late in the third, bloodying the defenceman and drawing a penalty.
After the final horn sounded, the skaters on the ice engaged in a prolonged melee.
The hit on Spacek was an unwelcome development for a team playing without defencemen Andrei Markov and Marc-Andre Bergeron. Josh Gorges, who took a slapshot off the head in the previous game, was able to play Friday.
Dominic Moore and P.K. Subban debuted for Montreal and each figured on the scoresheet. Subban assisted on former Flyer Glen Metropolit's goal at 2:05 of the third, with Moore changing the complexion of the game with another goal 56 seconds later.
Moore was acquired Thursday from Florida for a second round draft pick. Defenceman Subban was a 2007 draft pick of the club, playing in his first NHL game.
"We came back in the third, but it was one of those games where we just ran out of time," Moore said.
Top defenceman Andrei Markov did not play for the Canadiens.
Ryan O'Byrne had a game he'll likely want to forget. His penalty helped give the Flyers offensive momentum leading up to the first goal, and the third Philadelphia goal went off his stick and past Carey Price.
Price, making his second straight start, finished with 30 saves.
Counterpart Michael Leighton wasn't as busy, but arguably had the tougher saves on the net among his 23 stops.
Plekanec, who scored the overtime winner on Wednesday to stop Washington's unbeaten streak, tested Leighton early but was rebuffed.
Pronger unleashed a slapper that hit somebody and went off the crossbar behind Price.
The Canadiens netminder stood tall on Hartnell in tight, while at the other end Subban got his feet wet with a point blast that Leighton muzzled.
O'Byrne went off for hooking to help set up the first Philadelphia goal, although it occurred just seconds after the power play lapsed.
Not long after Price stoned Carter, the goaltender couldn't freeze the puck on a scramble in the crease. Hartnell had two whacks at it, but it was Carter who would push it across the line at 18:14 of the first.
Simon Gagne was foiled by Price on a power-play chance early in the second but Carter would find the mark with a slapshot from the point that went through a Montreal defender and between the goaltender's pads. Carter, first in line as a Team Canada injury replacement at the forward position, has scored in three consecutive games.
Exactly two minutes later, Carle's low shot hit O'Byrne's stick and eluded Price. The goal was set up by effective work along the boards from Powe.
The Flyers held a 23-13 shots advantage after two periods, when the Canadiens would make it interesting.
The Habs finally got a bounce themselves early in the third, with Metropolit throwing the puck on net, where it went off Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere and past Leighton.
The Canadiens had the Flyers on the run seconds later with a mad scramble in front of Leighton. The netminder lost his stick in the fray, with Moore lifting the puck by him at 3:01 of the third.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout for his troops.
"Those guys were gassed," Laviolette said. "We had a tough bounce on that first goal and they gained some momentum from it. Then they ran around for about three, four shifts in a row. During that timeout, we had to get back and keep the game simple, without turning it over."
There was plenty of time for Montreal to get even, but Leighton held firm. He stopped Maxim Lapierre in the slot midway in the frame and then stretched late with a left pad save on Tom Pyatt.
Philadelphia has now allowed just nine goals in six February games.
Saturday's clash is the last game for both teams heading into the Olympic break. The Canadiens won the previous matchup at Bell Centre in early December, a 3-1 result.
With files from The Associated Press