Game 1 of this series saw the Habs play with the Flyers and give themselves cause for optimism. If this was not enough, the Habs entered Game 2 with some added incentive as the biggest lineup change occurred behind the bench as Kirk Muller took over for Claude Julien who is absent due to some well-documented and important health concerns. Everyone in the hockey world wishes Julien health and a speedy recovery.
The forward lines did get a shakeup as Jake Evans got in at the expense of Dale Weise. This meant that Max Domi moved up to the second line wing as he played with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jonathan Drouin. This also meant that Evans centred a line with Alex Belzile and Joel Armia. These were important changes as that new second line contributed to the team’s success in what finished as a 5-0 victory for the Canadiens.
The first period of this game was absolutely dominated by the Habs. At the 10-minute mark, the shots were 8-0 for Montreal. The onslaught began immediately as the second shift of the game saw the top line of Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher, and Tomas Tatar go to work. Gallagher won two straight puck battles down low. This caused the Flyers to double-team Gallagher and the other defender fell asleep watching Gallagher come out of the corner and get a shot. The rebound came out to the slot and Tatar was wide open as he fired home his first point of the postseason with only 1:02 expired.
The early lead could have been extended as Nate Thompson gave the Habs a power play only moments later. The Habs didn’t score but also did not give up the momentum as they continued to apply pressure and cause turnovers all over the ice as the top unit could have easily scored two more in this half period.
The second half of the opening period wasn’t much better for the Flyers. It started with some double coverage of Domi which allowed Kotkaniemi to get open and tap home a rebound for his third goal of the postseason for a 2-0 lead. The Flyers were then called for too many men on the ice, but that was quickly negated by a Tatar hooking call.
Montreal’s complete domination up to the 17-minute mark didn’t allow Price to put his mark on this period but with less than three minutes to play in the period, he got his first bit of action and came up with big saves to keep the two-goal lead. With only seven seconds to play, Shayne Gostisbehere was called for holding Domi. It was a weak call, but one that the Habs deserved with their overall play in the period.
The Habs started the second period on the man advantage and Tatar started another period with a goal. Kotkaniemi started the play by winning a puck battle down low. The puck went around to Domi who sent it up to Victor Mete. Mete went across to Tatar who got a great screen from the Flyers’ Justin Braun to fire home an awesome shot to the top corner for a 3-0 lead only 1:25 into the period.
Four minutes in, Drouin took a slashing penalty. Twenty seconds later, Artturi Lehkonen got called for roughing that was about as valid as Gostisbehere’s penalty in the first. This meant over 90 seconds of 5-on-3. Price, Shea Weber, and Ben Chiarot were absolute beasts as they managed to kill the penalties with great saves and physical plays in front of the net.
The second half of the game saw some 4-on-4 action as Lehkonen and Jakub Voracek went off with coincidental minors. The Habs were finally cooling off as the second half of the game began. Philadelphia was starting to gain momentum but they continued to be frustrated by Price. This was important because the Habs took back momentum late in the period and with two minutes left to play, Armia sent a puck to the centre of the ice that went off of Gostisbehere to fool Hart and make the lead 4-0 heading into the third period. Of note here is that both Evans and Belzile got on the scoresheet and that this fourth goal was the end of the line for Hart as Brian Elliott came into the game.
In the final minutes, Max Domi made a boneheaded play that had the potential to wake the sleeping Flyer giant for the third. He made a strong move to the inside but never let up as he ran right into Elliott, picking up a goalie interference penalty along the way. The shots were 27-21 after two periods, but momentum, puck battles, and the overall pace of play should have shown more of an advantage for the Habs.
Price started the third period in style as he made a diving stop that was his best of the game. After this, Montreal’s relentless forecheck of the game came back as it created scoring chances for Armia and Paul Byron.
If Domi’s move was dumb, it was matched by Travis Konecny five minutes into the period as he cross-checked Drouin to send Montreal back to the man advantage. However, the best stop of the sequence came as the Habs got caught in deep. Price attempted to save the day with a poke check, but the rebound went to a Flyer that was denied by a sliding Shea Weber.
The Habs appeared out of sorts for a moment, but Gallagher got them back in control with a shift where he won three puck battles in the offensive zone to get the Habs back on the offensive. Just before the midway point in the period, Derek Grant was pushed on Price by Jeff Petry and somehow Grant ended up with a penalty for goalie interference.
With that, the final stretch of play started with a Montreal power play that saw Kotkaniemi get his second of the game. After a Flyers’ defender lost his stick, Domi found a streaking Kotkaniemi who then pulled a move on the defender before firing a rocket home for his team-leading fourth of the postseason.
With a 5-0 lead, both teams started going through the motions a bit. Xavier Ouellet and Nate Thompson were ejected as the officials took a no-nonsense approach to the end of the game. Kotkaniemi was then called for hooking with four minutes to play. The 4-on-3 saw Danault, Weber, Chiarot play big for a second time in this game. Flyers then took a penalty with just over two minutes to play to end the game. Montreal put out the top power play unit to start, a decision that drew the ire of Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault after the game.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Tomas Tatar
Tatar scored his first point of the playoffs and it changed his entire game around. He was rewarded for that better play with a second goal on the afternoon, but even away from the puck, that goal saw Tatar get his jam back and play a better 200-foot game. This series gets a whole new dimension if Tatar becomes a scoring threat as he needs to be.
Stats: 2 goals, +1, 3 shots, 1 hit, 14:45 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Max Domi
Domi appeared determined to reward the coaching staff for giving him more responsibility as the second line winger. He achieved this by being an offensive threat all night long. Even his rather dumb penalty was earned through a giant effort to get himself to the front of the net and play with some jam. It’s hard to fault a guy for playing with that type of attitude, even if that’s much easier to say now that we know that play didn’t wake up the Flyers.
Stats: 3 assists, +1, 3 shots, 14:40 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Carey Price
Price did not have to steal this game. However, every single time the Flyers got a good shift together, they faced the wall that is Price. There was no greater example of the mental hurdle that Price represents than watching his efforts on the extended 5-on-3. It was another moment where the Flyers could have gotten back into the game, but Price would have none of it.
Stats: 30 saves, 30 shots, 0.00 G.A.A., 1.000 SV%, 60:00 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Brendan Gallagher
Boy, this was a vintage Gallagher performance. He ends the night with a single point, but it was the most important goal of the game that got the Habs going for the rest of the contest. It was almost a quiet game for him, but whenever the team appeared to be giving up momentum, he’d come up with a giant effort on a shift to get the boys rallied up again. As mentioned, vintage Gallagher.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 4 shots, 1 hit, 16:18 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Remember when people were wondering if Kotkaniemi was even going to play in Game 1 against the Penguins? He’s now the team’s leading scorer into the first round of the playoffs with four goals after picking two in this one. He continues to be a big body presence in all three zones and has now been flanked with two offensive weapons in Drouin and Domi. Another great game by him. It’s no wonder this team is surprising when guys who were in the AHL are stepping up and playing the way Kotkaniemi has played in this restart.
Stats: 2 goals, +1, 2 shots, 6 hits, 13:33 T.O.I.