The Canadiens had their backs against the wall and they were looking to fight off elimination in Game Five on Wednesday night. A good first period from the Habs saw them carry a 1-0 lead into the second. Early in the middle frame, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was called for a very questionable five-minute penalty and a game misconduct. After giving up two on the penalty kill, the situation looked bleak for Montreal but they found a way to rally and extended the series with a 5-3 win.
There were a couple of lineup changes for the forwards before the game. Charles Hudon played in his first career NHL playoff contest, playing on the fourth line with Jake Evans and Joel Armia. Phillip Danault was moved back to his familiar spot on the top line in an effort to ignite the offence. The defence stayed the same, obviously with Carey Price in net.
Coming into the game, Montreal knew the importance of scoring the first goal. In games in which they opened the scoring, the Canadiens were 4-0, meaning that they were 0-4 when they do not. With that in mind, the Habs’ top line got off to a great start and they were applying pressure early.
After a strong push from the Habs, Ben Chiarot drove the net hard but it resulted in a goaltender interference penalty. Montreal killed off the first half of the penalty. Late in the kill, Xavier Ouellet carried the puck out to centre and slapped a hard dump-in off the boards. Joel Armia snuck in behind the defence and put the loose puck over Carter Hart for Montreal’s first goal in two games.
Halfway through the period, Brendan Gallagher took the second Montreal penalty of the period. Thankfully, the Flyers power play was not looking strong at all. It was negated when Jakub Voracek assaulted Nick Suzuki while he was trying to kill the penalty. This resulted in a double minor and gave Montreal just under three minutes in power play time.
Montreal’s power play did not look much better; the best chance came on a Kevin Hayes breakaway. The good news for the Habs was that Price was ready, and he flashed the leather for a quick glove save. The rest of the period was fairly sloppy (this was the third game on the ice today). In the last minute, Armia was tripped by Joel Farabee. Montreal did not score to end the period, leaving them with just over a minute to start the second.
Early in the second period, Kotkaniemi threw a hard hit into the boards on Travis Sanheim. The hit was reviewed, and the referees somehow justified a five-minute major and a game misconduct for Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Rule 41.5 states that if a major is assessed and there’s an injury to the head or face, the ejection is automatic so it was a minor or five and a game and they picked the latter. Philadelphia took advantage of the gift they were given with two goals from Voracek to take over the lead.
The Canadiens found a critical response just past the halfway point to tie up the game. Armia was streaking down the right wing and from an awkward angle, he put it off the post and in for his second of the night.
Shortly after the goal, Jake Evans was cross-checked right in the nose by Philippe Myers and was bleeding. The attack resulted in a four-minute penalty. Gallagher picked the perfect time to take the monkey off his back and give Montreal their lead back. Suzuki put the puck towards the net, and Gallagher plucked it out of the air and batted it into the net. They weren’t able to score on the back half of the advantage, however.
Suzuki put a shot past Hart with just over five minutes left for a 4-2 Canadiens lead which appeared to end Hart’s night. The play was challenged and Drouin was a step offside, so the goal was called off and Flyers coach Alain Vigneault opted to keep Hart in after all. That bad break did not stop the Habs, and they pushed to get it back. The period ended with the Canadiens up a goal heading into the third.
Early in the final frame, Philadelphia was putting on the pressure. The Canadiens started running around in their own zone a little more than you would like to. Seven minutes in, Artturi Lehkonen got a tripping penalty and the penalty killers faced a big test. Price made a few big saves early and then Montreal held the puck for the rest of the time as they neutralized the threat.
The penalty killers were not done there, as just a few minutes later, Kevin Hayes was tripped by Jeff Petry on a rush that had some wondering if a penalty shot was warranted. That didn’t matter as Voracek quickly set up a Joel Farabee tip to make it 3-3.
The Habs wasted no time with the response. On the ensuing shift, Drouin went in hard on the forecheck and picked up the puck behind the net. He sent a perfect backhand pass to Suzuki, and Suzuki pulled it around Hart and slid it into the net for his second of the playoffs to give Montreal the lead back just 22 seconds after the game was tied.
With just over five minutes to go, Gallagher drew a tripping penalty on Voracek. They did not get many chances but the important part was another two minutes killed off the clock. Philadelphia buzzed all around the Canadiens zone with the extra attacker out. With 17 seconds left, Phillip Danault got the puck out to centre and fired it into the open cage to clinch the game.
The Flyers started some rough stuff after the empty netter and there were several misconducts handed out. Nonetheless, the rally was completed, and Montreal gave themselves a chance to tie the series up at three on Friday night. The start time for that one is a little earlier than normal and it will go at 7 PM EST.
HW Habs Three Stars
First Star – Joel Armia
Armia had the magic touch in his stick this evening. He made a very smart play in the first period to pounce on that rebound and open the scoring. It was also nice in the second period to finally see a Montreal shot hit the post and go in. Armia picked the perfect time to explode offensively with Montreal’s backs against the wall.
Stats: 2G, +4, 4 SOG, 1 hit, 17:03 TOI
Second Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki came up clutch tonight for the Canadiens. His quick response on the game-winning goal was so critical. Without it, Philadelphia could have really taken over late in the third. With Kotkaniemi out so early, Suzuki was also relied upon for more important minutes along with Danault.
Stats: 1G (GWG), 1A, +2, 3 SOG, 2 hits, 18:36 TOI
Third Star – Brendan Gallagher
Even before the goal, you could tell that Gallagher was back to his old self in this game. Right from the opening shift, he was getting under the skin of the Flyers. He was a pest all night long and finally got rewarded for his hard work with a crafty goal. He finished the game bloody and bruised, but the win was all he cared about.
Stats: 1G, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, 3 hits, 18:02 TOI
Honourable Mention – Jonathan Drouin
Although he has not had his offensive breakout yet, Drouin was a reliable presence in the offensive zone tonight. He is starting to make more plays and is becoming more effective. He made a really nice play in the third period to set up Suzuki for the game-winner.
Stats: 2A, +2, 1 SOG, 4 hits, 16:19 TOI