"Ole, Ole, Ole" was back with its rightful hockey owners on Thursday.
The soccer victory song that was adopted by the loyal supporters of the Montreal Canadiens years ago was mockingly stolen by the fanatics of the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week. But as the Montreal Canadiens skated to an important 5-1 victory, the Bell Centre chorus of 21,273 was triumphantly singing its song once again.
The Canadiens' win has made a series out of the Eastern Conference final. The Flyers now hold a 2-1 lead with Game 4 set for Saturday afternoon in Montreal (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3 p.m. ET).
Flyers captain Mike Richards described the Canadiens' victory as "an old-fashioned ass kicking." Where to start? The Habs were good in so many areas compared to the first two outings in which they were outscored 9-0. Probably the most important developments were the Canadiens utilized their team speed, exhibited much more determination in arriving at the puck first and more fight around the two nets.
In other words, their teamwork was back.
"This is what we did in the first two rounds, but we didn't do in the first two games of this series," said Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre, who, along with his linemates Tom Pyatt and Dominic Moore, enjoyed a strong game with a combined two goals and five points.
"We played hard in the last game, but we didn't play smart," Lapierre added.
The Lapierre line often found themselves out against the top Flyers line of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Dan Carcillo.
There were so many strong efforts by Montreal players that no one can be singled out, including goalie Jaroslav Halak, who had his shutout bid ruined midway through the third period with a goal from Gagne. But the defence pairing of rookie P.K. Subban and Roman Hamrlik were solid. Hamrlik finished with a plus-4 rating and Subban checked in at plus-3.
Subban was mixing it up with Pronger at one point in the third period.
"He's a Hall of Famer," said Subban, who had three assists. "Growing up, I looked up to him. I can't believe I'm out there playing against him."
Examples of the Canadiens increased determination were evident in the first-period goals scored by Michael Cammalleri and Pyatt. Cammalleri pounced on a rebound that caromed off the end boards from a Subban shot. Pyatt went hard to the net for his goal.
Cammalleri's marker ended a 172-minute, 55-second shutout string for Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton that dated back to the first period of the historic Game 7 victory against the Boston Bruins in the previous round.
The win was the third in a row for the Canadiens at home and snapped Philadelphia's six-game win streak. The Habs outshot the Flyers for the third consecutive game, this time by a 38-26 advantage. This was the first time on six occasions in this playoff run that the Canadiens had outshot an opponent and celebrated a victory.
Another key for the Canadiens was their discipline and penalty killing. After yielding four power-play goals to their opponents in the opening two games, the Canadiens only handed the Flyers three power-play opportunities and survived each two-minute session.
'We moved the puck much better'
For third game in the series, the Canadiens were the much better team in the first period. Only this time they retired to the dressing room with a 2-0 lead instead of behind 1-0 like in the two games at the Wachovia Center. Montreal outshot the Flyers 17-9 in the first period and now holds a 46-21 advantage in the opening 20 minutes for the series.
A lead after 20 minutes was a good sign for the Canadiens. Eight of their nine wins in the 2010 playoffs have materialized when they either led or tied after the first period.
Moore increased the Canadiens lead to 3-0 in the second period and a Brian Gionta goal made it 4-0 in the third. Marc-Andre Bergeron scored a last-minute power-play goal, Montreal's first special-teams goal of the series.
"We moved the puck much better," Gionta said. "We came up with support all together. We entered their zone a lot better tonight. Our forecheck was good. So when all that's going, it's a lot easier to get the traffic to net. Get good shots, good opportunities. Obviously, we started to do that in Game 2 and it paid off in [this] game."
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin made two alterations to his lineup. He brought back in forward Benoit Pouliot and big defenceman Ryan O'Byrne for forwards Sergei Kostitsyn and Mathieu Darche. But O'Byrne dumped a puck over the glass in the first minute for a delay of game and saw only a couple of shifts after the mistake.
The seven-defencemen lineup, however, allowed Martin to spot Cammalleri with different combinations. He played a team-leading 24:43.
"We've said it all along," Cammalleri said. "For us to get where we want to go, we're going to need contribution through our lineup, not only defensively, but offensively. I don't think any team's probably ever won a championship without contributions through the lineup. And so big goals tonight and they helped a lot, so good inspirational effort by those guys."