Flyers push punchless Habs to brink
Nothing was going to stand in the way of the Philadelphia Flyers taking a two-game lead back home in the Eastern Conference final.
The Flyers not only put forth a stingy defensive effort to slow the speedy Montreal Canadiens, they overcame skate issues to shut out the Habs 3-0 at the Bell Centre on Saturday afternoon.
This was the third time in four games that the Flyers blanked the Canadiens. They'll take a 3-1 series lead back home for Game 5 on Monday.
In addition to the game, the Canadiens also lost hard-working forward Tom Pyatt to an upper-body injury. He did not play in the third period, and more on his condition should be known on Sunday.
The Flyers limited their opponents to 17 shots on goal despite a series of problems with their skates. On several occasions, forwards Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Darroll Powe as well as defenceman Kimmo Timonen returned to the dressing room to get their blades sharpened.
NBC reported that there may have been some sand or another foreign substance on the runway from the dressing room to the ice surface that contributed to the problems.
There were towels laid down on the walkway, but Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and his players denied there was sand or something else that caused the skate issues.
Giroux burns Gorges
Richards said there may have been other factors at play.
"I was stepping on a lot of skates or sticks, and hit the post a couple times," the Flyers captain said. "But I think it was five times that I had to get my skates sharpened tonight, which is obviously a bit much. But Bricks [assistant equipment manager Harry Bricker] did a good job getting me back there quick.
So was there sand on the runway?
"I'm not sure," Richards replied. "I didn't check the carpet for it.
"Bricker said that [the nicks in Richards' skates ] were a little bit too big for being sand pellets. I can't see that happening."
A skate mishap also was a factor in the game’s opening goal. Giroux had no problem cruising around Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges because the latter's skate guard, which protects his foot for shot-blocking purposes — had come loose and prohibited him from turning to defend the swift Flyers forward.
It was a mystery that the Canadiens could not match their outstanding performance from their 5-1 win in Game 3 last Thursday. Montreal simply wasn’t moving the puck with the same precision as they did in their victory. They didn’t support the puck as well, didn't handle it as well, and they committed too many turnovers.
A giveaway by rookie Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban just inside the Flyers blue-line led to a pass from Philadelphia's Chris Pronger to Ville Leino for a breakaway goal and a 2-0 lead. Giroux added a late-game empty-net goal to seal the win.
"I thought our execution was where it needed to be," Montreal forward Michael Cammalleri said. "They stayed disciplined in their game."
Familiar trouble for Habs
A lacklustre second period did in the Canadiens. They mustered only one shot on Flyers goalie Michael Leighton, matching a franchise-record low for shots in a period.
But the Flyers deserve credit. They had forwards Jeff Carter (foot) and Ian Laperriere (head) back in the lineup and immediately had more determination in their game than they exhibited in the previous two outings.
The Flyers also blocked 27 shots and won 68 per cent of the face-offs.
"We all realized there wasn’t too many of us that had a good game in Game 3," Pronger said. "They obviously played well and we didn't. We needed to rebound."
Rebounding has been the Canadiens' forte in this playoff run. Here they are again. They will face an elimination game for the sixth time this spring.
They also find themselves in the same situation as the first round against the Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, down 3-1 and going back on the road.
"It's a familiar situation to us," Cammalleri said. "We seem to play our best hockey in these situations.
"Here we go again."