It was the first Canadiens win in Philadelphia since Jaroslav Halak shut the Flyers out 1-0 on April 2nd 2010.
This game involved two teams with backs against the playoff wall. The Canadiens rose to the occasion. For some reason, the Flyers didn’t.
The Canadiens defence, which had been in a state of collapse over the last five games, returned to form. Team defence was the difference in a game that was, at first glance, very close statistically. Shots on goal were 35-33 for the Canadiens. The Canadiens controlled 51% of the shot attempts.
The quality of the shots was the game story. The Canadiens were able to get to the dangerous scoring areas. Thanks to the Canadiens ability to shut down the scoring lanes, the Flyers barely got a smell in front of Carey Price. High danger scoring chances favoured the Canadiens 11-5. In the third period, with Philadelphia’s last hope for a playoff berth disappearing, the Flyers were unable to produce a single dangerous chance.
While the Canadiens were winning, Carolina was posting a 3-2 shootout victory over Pittsburgh and Calgary was beating Columbus 4-2. The Hurricanes have the first wild card with 87 points , three points ahead of Columbus and the second wild card berth. The Canadiens are a point behind the Blue Jackets. Both Montreal and Columbus have nine games remaining. The Canadiens have games at Carolina and Columbus next week.
How many times have we seen Brendan Gallagher‘s relentless approach to the game produce a critical goal. Late in the first period, Gallagher raced off the bench to check the puck away from Oskar Lindblom in his own zone. As the puck went to Tomas Tatar, Gallagher lost an edge, fell, picked himself up just Christian Folin‘s shot rebounded to him for his 31st goal. Twenty-six of his thirty-one goals have come at even strength. In that department he is third in the league. The thirty-one goals equals his career high.
There’s a good reason that Claude Julien as made the Danault/Gallagher/Tatar line practically untouchable through most of the season. They’re just so damned dependable. Julien put them up against the Flyers top line of Sean Couturier, Jakob Voracek and Oskar Lindblom. Five-on-five they were kept off the board with only three dangerous scoring chances and nothing that Price had much difficulty taking care of.
Brett Kulak seemed to have run into the wall in recent games. Against the Flyers he had his game together and the pairing of Kulak and Jeff Petry was the Canadiens best. At one point, late in the first period we had the odd sight of two defencemen Kulak and Petry cutting lose on a two-on-one breakaway. Petry logged the Canadiens best 21:53. The Benn/Folin third pairing put in a credible nineteen minutes and were on the ice for both of the Canadiens goals. Not to be forgetten: Shea Weber’s 12th goal was the game winner.
Without the constant pressure to which he’s been subjected over the last two months we were able to appreciate another part of Carey Price‘s game. Because the Canadiens were so strong in the neutral zone, the Flyers were forced to dump and chase most of the night. Before the Flyers forwards could get in on the forecheck, Price had already retrieved the puck and started a play that led to an immediate zone exit. Only once in the game did his puck handling get him in trouble and Tomas Tatar bailed him out of that one.
You would think the Claude Julien message would have registered on Jonathan Drouin when he was demoted to the third line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia. Seems it hasn’t. While Kotkaniemi and Armia were playing to their strengths, once again Drouin accomplished nothing. No scoring attempts of any sort, zero shots on goal in only three weak attempts. Instead of trying to raise the level of his play, Drouin appears to be sulking.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Wednesday morning SportsClubStats.com increased the chances of a Canadiens playoff berth from 18.8% to 30.7% with nine games remaining.
….The only two players who have scored more five-on-five goals than Gallagher‘s 26 are Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel and Toronto’s John Tavares, each with 28.
….Prior to their win Tuesday night the Canadiens were 0-12-1 in Philadelphia over the last nine seasons.
….No complaints about the Canadiens power play. They Canadiens were given no opportunity to put it on the ice. The Flyers scored on their only power play chance.
….Shea Weber led the Canadiens with five shots on goal. Without any power play time, Weber was third among defencemen with 20:32 icetime.
The next two games are at home. The Islanders on Thursday and Buffalo on Saturday. That will be followed by the conclusion of the season’s final set of back-to-back games Sunday at Carolina. Next week the Canadiens play Florida at home Tuesday, at Columbus Thursday and in Winnipeg a week Saturday.