Habs muster little offence in loss to Flyers
Recently acquired Nesterov scores Canadiens' lone goal on just 16 shots
Matt Read ended a long scoring drought with a strategy that sounded easy: He just shot the puck hard.
Read netted the tiebreaking goal early in the third period to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Claude Giroux also scored and Sean Couturier had an empty-netter in the final seconds for the Flyers, who opened a five-game homestand — their longest of the season — by winning their fourth in the last five.
Following Tuesday's disheartening 5-1 loss at Carolina in which the Flyers had just six shots through 2 1/2 periods, coach Dave Hakstol benched 23-year-old defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere and 19-year-old forward Travis Konecny.
Hakstol kept faith in Read
Hakstol kept Read in the lineup, however, even though the Philadelphia forward hadn't scored a goal since Nov. 3.
"I just had an opportunity to shoot the puck and I shot it as hard as I could," Read said. "I got lucky. The good man upstairs was looking out for me tonight."
Read put Philadelphia in front with a perfectly placed slap shot from the slot on a 3-on-2 break with 16:28 left.
"That was a big goal," Hakstol said. "Obviously, it was a long time coming for Matt. Sometimes when the puck's not going in the net you have a tendency to shoot it less, even. So hopefully seeing one go in the net for him, he's going to get a little bit of that shooter's instinct back."
Couturier set up the chance and Read finished it by beating Carey Price over his right shoulder into the top corner of the net.
"He put it in a good spot, right in the top corner," Price said. "It was a really good shot."
Neuvirth does his job
Michal Neuvirth kept Philadelphia in front with a strong save on Paul Byron from close range 3 1/2 minutes later.
"Timely save," Hakstol said. "Maybe none with better timing than that one."
Neuvirth didn't have a lot of work, finishing with 15 saves to help the Flyers improve to 10-0-1 in their last 11 home games against Montreal.
Price stopped 21 shots.
Competition heating up
Nikita Nesterov scored for the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens. Montreal's 16 shots were a season low and also marked the fewest Philadelphia has allowed in a game this season.
"They played a good game, but on our side we didn't compete at all," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said.
This is an important homestand for the Flyers, who began the day with a tenuous hold on the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Philadelphia was one point in front of Toronto for the second wild card, but eight teams were within seven points of the Flyers.
Giroux tied it on the power play with 2:10 left in the second period. The captain's wrist shot from the top of the left circle trickled through Price's legs.
"We went back to playing the way we know we can," Giroux said. "We did a good job of battling tonight. We played as a team and it was a real team win tonight."
'We stopped skating'
Nesterov, playing his second game for the Canadiens, scored his fourth of the season on a slap shot 4:51 in. It was his first goal since being acquired from Tampa Bay last Thursday.
Alex Galchenyuk, returning from a three-game absence due to a knee injury, made a cross-ice pass and Nesterov fired the puck past Neuvirth.
But the Canadiens were mostly quiet after that goal.
"We got a good start but as soon as we scored our goal, our attitude changed," Therrien said. "We didn't have an attitude to compete. We stopped skating. We didn't battle to loose pucks."