The Montreal Canadiens didn’t have much time to dwell on their disappointing game against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, as twenty-four hours later they were in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. After a questionable opening period, the Habs quickly took a 3-1 lead in the second. Montreal did not look back from there and got the win in a very important game against a team that they’re chasing.
Montreal got a big boost for this one, as Joel Armia returned for the first time since December 23rd. He suited up on the second line, with Nick Suzuki at centre and Max Domi on the left. This meant that Artturi Lehkonen slid down to the third line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling. On defence, Brett Kulak took the place of Cale Fleury on the third pairing.
Four minutes into the game, Victor Mete was tripped by Nicolas Aube-Kubel and the Habs got the game’s first power play chance. Much like Wednesday night, something was off. They couldn’t coordinate their zone entries and when they did the puck was cleared by the Flyers in short order.
Later on in the period, Ilya Kovalchuk got the Canadiens’ first high-danger chance. Phillip Danault made a great pass through the defenders and Kovalchuk tipped it almost perfectly. It looked like it might trickle through but Alex Lyon squeezed it just enough to keep it out. A couple of minutes later Lehkonen fired an absolute laser while he was falling. Lyon didn’t even see it, but the puck hit his glove and bounced away.
With just over one minute left in the period, poor coverage in front of the Montreal net resulted in Joel Farabee having way too much time with the puck on his stick in the slot. He made no mistake and shot it through Price to open the scoring.
It was just a short-lived lead for Philadelphia though, just 18 seconds to be exact. On the next shift, Danault took a pass from Ben Chiarot and forwarded to Tomas Tatar in the slot. With Kovalchuk creating a distraction in front of the net, Tatar came in untouched and picked the corner to tie it up.
The hectic end to the period didn’t stop there. Another Montreal turnover resulted in a couple of close calls for the Flyers in front. Thankfully, Price was able to bail the team out but he did not look happy as he left the ice for the intermission.
Kevin Hayes got called for hooking early in the second period. Nick Cousins paid the price on the power play as a Weber bomb from the point hit him in front. Fortunately, the puck sat in the crease, and Kovalchuk was right there to bang it home for the first Montreal lead of the night.
On the very next play, Tatar brought the puck in on the right wing. He sent it over to Danault on the left, who fired it towards the net. Lehkonen got there, and a perfect tip sent the puck past Lyon and gave the Habs a 3-1 lead. The whole play took just 11 seconds.
Six minutes into the frame, Dale Weise took an offensive zone tripping penalty. There were a few early scares but the Habs got it killed to keep their two-goal advantage. The Habs got a turn on the power play just before the halfway point when Connor Bunnaman threw Armia to the ice and got sent off for high-sticking. Montreal had an alright power play this time but they couldn’t extend their lead.
With four minutes to go, the Flyers had a flurry of chances. Several great saves from Price on Michael Raffl and Jakub Voracek kept Montreal in control. The Habs killed off another penalty just before the end of the period after Marco Scandella tripped Travis Konecny. With Price continuing his hot play, the Habs kept their lead going into the third.
Ryan Poehling was upended by Robert Hagg in the third, and he was down on the ice. Surprisingly, Kotkaniemi dropped the gloves and had a heck of a fight with Hagg. Poehling appeared to be okay after the play. However, Kotkaniemi was given an instigator penalty, as well as five for fighting and a ten-minute misconduct.
Montreal killed that one-off, then shortly after Danault, took a hooking penalty. Another stellar penalty kill kept the Flyers off the board and kept them frustrated. During the kills, Price made several more big saves to continue his great night.
Later on, in the period the Habs got more insurance. Danault made a great play to gain the zone, he then came around and fed Kovalchuk in the high slot. Kovalchuk made no mistake and wired it past Lyon for his second of the night.
This goal entirely took the wind out of the sail of the Flyers. The Canadiens dominated the rest of the game and had several chances to extend the lead. The Habs put the finishing touches on a 4-1 victory in a game that they absolutely needed to have
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Phillip Danault
All of Danault’s assists were primary and directly resulted in the goal. On the Lehkonen goal, he put it in a perfect spot to be tipped in. He also made a great play to gain the zone and set up the Kovalchuk goal. On top of that, he was key for the successful penalty kills.
Stats: 3A, +3, 2 SOG, 21:21 TOI
Second Star – Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk continues to be an offensive force and a very pleasant surprise. On top of the two goals, Kovalchuk came close to having a few more and also tried setting up his teammates all night. He is continuing to build great chemistry with Tatar and Danault on that first line.
Stats: 2G, +2, 5 SOG, 15:38 TOI
Third Star – Carey Price
The cliché that your best penalty killer needs to be your goalie was very true in this one. Price was unbeatable on the Flyers’ power plays, was getting across his crease effectively all night, and stopped countless point-blank shots. That is now just two goals against in his last three games.
Stats: win, 40 saves, .976 save %
Honourable Mention – Artturi Lehkonen
Although he did score, it is the little things that often go unnoticed that Lehkonen did so well again. He was hard on the forecheck all night long and was always on the backcheck. A perfect example of this came in the third period, when he had a chance down the right wing but shot it wide, and he still managed to be the first forward on the backcheck.
Stats: 1G, +1, 5 SOG, 15:02 TOI