Flyers hammer Canadiens in Game 1
Halak pulled just like in Penguins opener
And now for something completely different from the Montreal Canadiens' magical run through the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, we present the bewildering effort they put forth in the opener of the Eastern Conference final.
There were disappointing losses before in their seven-game upset victories over both the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. But there was never a lack of effort in their game as evident as in the Canadiens' 6-0 shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
The Canadiens were beaten in every facet of the game. The compete level was absent. They had little intensity. Their special teams were abysmal. The determination around the tough areas of their own and the opposition’s goal just wasn’t there.
The Canadiens will have to return to the drawing board ahead of Game 2 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
"There are a lot of things," Montreal defenceman Hal Gill said. "I’m sure everyone on our team will say that they made the mistake that cost us a goal. We have to be better as a team.
"It’s one game. But we have to do something about it, that’s the thing. We just didn’t have it tonight. We didn’t have that edge or that commitment that we had in the past."
In the first round, the Canadiens suffered lopsided losses to Washington in Games 3 and 4 by scores of 5-1 and 6-3, respectively. But they bounced back to win the final three games to take the series.
In the second round, the Penguins were much better than the Canadiens in the 6-3 curtain raiser. Again Montreal found its form in Game 2 to deadlock the series. But can the Canadiens rebound from this devastating result from a Flyers team that has won five in a row, including four consecutive wins against the Boston Bruins to become only the third team in Stanley Cup playoff history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series?
"This team cares," Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri said. "We want to work hard and do the right thing. But I don’t think that we were as sharp as we needed to be on a lot of different levels.
"The first period was OK, but from there I don’t think we liked our compete level. It was a disappointing game for us. We have to regroup here."
Second-line centre Scott Gomez is the first Canadiens player who needs to recuperate. He took a bonehead roughing penalty against Philadelphia captain Mike Richards early in the game that not only cut short a Montreal man-advantage situation, but gave the Flyers a power play on which defenceman Braydon Coburn scored in a goal-mouth scramble for a 1-0 lead.
Gomez had an opportunity off a turnover created by his linemate Brian Gionta to tie the game at one apiece but fired his partial breakaway shot into the belly of Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton, and the Canadiens would never be as close again.
In the second period, Gomez was beaten on a faceoff by Flyers forward Claude Giroux, which led to a James van Riemsdyk goal. In the third period Gomez had just exited the penalty box again when Scott Hartnell made it 5-0. Danny Brière, Simon Gagné and Giroux scored the other goals in a game that the Flyers led 4-0 after 40 minutes.
"He has every right to be," Gomez said, when informed Montreal coach Jacques Martin did not look happy after his two penalties. "I know better than that. I can’t do that. It all starts with me.
"They just gave us an old fashion you-know-what."
Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak also has to bounce back. He surrendered four goals on 14 shots and was lifted after Gagné’s second-period goal. This was the third time in this playoff run that he was replaced by Carey Price in a game. On each occasion when he returned to the net after being yanked, he responded with a win.
"I don’t have any concern [with Halak]," Cammalleri said. "We’ve seen games where pucks have gone in on him before and he’s come back and played spectacular. Carey also is someone we have tons of confidence in. I don’t think he has allowed a goal in practice in two weeks. We love our goaltending."
The Canadiens knew entering the conference final that special teams would play a major role in determining the Eastern champion. The Flyers officially went 2-for-6 in man-advantage situations, but essentially scored four goals as the result of power plays because two Philadelphia goals came shortly after Montreal penalties expired.
The Flyers now have 15 power-play goals in 13 playoff games. Meanwhile, the Canadiens failed to use any of their four man-advantage situations to grab some momentum in this game.
The Canadiens did outshoot their opponents 28-25 on Sunday, but now are 0-4 when they have outshot the opposition in the 2010 playoffs.
Leighton now has a playoff shutout after two other close calls in just four career playoff starts. He came back after a two-month injury absence in the Boston series in Game 4 after Brian Boucher went down with a knee injury. The two goalies combined to blank Boston 4-0, but neither was credited with the official shutout.
Leighton nearly got a shutout the next game but the Bruins scored in the final minute. He now has a .959 save percentage in the playoffs.
With files from CBCSports.ca