Montreal returned to the friendly confines of the Bell Centre Monday night, to face the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite some sluggish play at times, the Habs picked up the 3-1 win to remain unbeaten in regulation. Former Hab Dale Weise was not able to enjoy his first chance to face his former team, as he was unavailable for the second straight game due to a 3 game NHL suspension. He did, however, speak with the media prior to the game.
In the first period, Paul Byron had the first good chance of the night with his soon-to-be-patented burst of speed giving him a good scoring chance up close. A few minutes later, Max Pacioretty rang the puck off the post. The Habs first power play opportunity gave the team a chance to try their newest experiment, placing Alexander Radulov on the left point. He showed some great poise distributing the puck, and started a nearly successful end-to-end solo rush. Radulov needs a little time adjusting to this role but if the coaches grant him patience it should bear fruit. On the same power play, Weber launched another cannon blast to the net for a decent scoring chance.
The defensive partners were jumbled a little for 5-on-5 situations, pairing Weber with Emelin, Beaulieu with Pateryn, and Petry with Markov to start the game. In the first, other decent scoring chances were generated by Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell, with the Habs 4th line playing an excellent role against the Flyers. Habs “killer” Wayne Simmonds should have been assessed a minor penalty for a dirty cross check near the boards that sent Andrei Markov into the boards. The referee talked to Simmonds after the whistle, but should have been talking to Simmonds from the other side of the penalty box. Later in the first, Radulov got a questionable penalty for a legal check to a Flyers forward behind the net. As the puck approach him, Radulov delivered a clean hit but the puck went past the player and the referee deemed it an interference call. The Canadiens successfully killed the penalty, allowing a couple of good chances for the Flyers. Philadelphia outhit the Habs in the first period 19-12, but Habs outshot them 9-6.
In the second period, the Habs effort lead to a payoff. Rookie Artturi Lehkonen made a strong forecheck behind the Flyers net, passed the recovered puck to Radulov, who set up before he Weber blasted it from the point into the net. The shot was so hard it broke a Flyers’ players stick on the way to the net, but didn’t reduce the effectiveness of the shot enough to make a difference. Past the midpoint of the game, Philadelphia tied the score on a tipped shot from the point. Rookie Travis Konecny was first awarded his first NHL goal on the play. The video replay showed that Jakub Voracek actually connected with the puck and he was eventually awarded the goal. On the next shift, the Habs turned up the pressure on offence with a strong shift by the Plekanec, Radulov and Lehkonen line. They managed a couple of good scoring chances and drew a penalty. On the second wave of the power play, Plekanec had an excellent chance to score with most of the net open, but he could not connect on the rolling puck and it went wide.
The third period started to be lacklustre for the Habs, who seemed to be playing a defensive style in a tie game. The first 10 minutes of the period the Habs were called for icing at least five times. With a little less than seven minutes left in the third, Philadelphia was called for a neutral zone tripping call. On the ensuing faceoff, Radulov blasted the puck from the point and Brendan Gallagher got just a piece of it for his fourth goal of the year. Oddly enough, after the Habs regained the lead, they began to apply more offensive pressure for the rest of the game. The Flyers tried to mount some pressure when they pulled their goalie with a little more than a minute left. They managed one good chance but Carey Price bailed them out with an outstanding kick save. The Habs regained puck control, and Emelin lofted the puck from their end to the neutral zone. Radulov corralled the puck and sealed the Flyers fate with an empty net goal.
HW Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Alex Radulov – This guy has the tenacity of the bear in the movie The Revenant. What’s not to like? He got a point for every Habs goal, lead all Montreal forwards in hits and ice time, and continues his high level of effort each and every shift. His enthusiasm seems to be contagious to his teammates.
Stats: 1 Goal, 2 Assists, +2, 1 SOG, 5 Hits, 1 Blocked Shot, 17:28 TOI
2nd Star: Shea Weber – Big Shea strikes again! I mean that literally given the fact he broke a Flyers stick with his bomb shot from the point on his goal. Weber lead the team in ice time again, and played a practically perfect game from a defensive stance.
Stats: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +2, 4 SOG, 2 Hits, 2 Blocked Shots, 26:07 TOI
3rd Star: Alexei Emelin – Pairing him with Emelin was a good move by the coaching staff for this game. The game plan appeared to counter the Flyers big line of Giroux-Simmonds-Voracek with Weber and Emelin, and it worked well. limiting them to one goal. His physicality was solid, as he led the team in hits, including a big one against Wayne Simmonds late in the third period. Alexei’s heads up play to get the puck out of the Habs zone and directing it to Radulov’s on his goal was a very heady play.
Stats: 1 Assist, +2, 6 Hits, 3 Blocked Shots, 3 Giveaways, 22:17 TOI
Honourable Mention: Carey Price – He wasn’t tested very often but was there to stop the the Flyers on all but one shot. His save late in the third period drew a cheer from the crowd nearly identical to any of the cheers after Habs goals.