What could possibly be said about a Canadiens-Flyers match-up on April 21st in a season where both teams know their season is ending in five short games? Well, one team was going to snap a six-game losing streak while upsetting their fans who wish for better draft lottery odds, so there is that. The Habs had a golden opportunity to secure a lower position in the standings with a loss, as well as providing the Coyotes a chance to pass them in the standings.
The blue line featured the now usual top four with Kale Clague and Chris Wideman featured on the bottom pair as Jordan Harris watched the game. Up front, the top line remained the same, but the second line saw Jake Evans return and be paired with Rem Pitlick and newly recalled Rafael Harvey-Pinard. This meant that the third line was Christian Dvorak with Mike Hoffman and Brendan Gallagher while Ryan Poehling centred the fourth line flanked with Tyler Pitlick and Mathieu Perreault. Carey Price got the start in goal hoping his team would finally score to help him as he faced Martin Jones. The Habs did score for Price, but they forgot to defend as they dropped the game 6-3.
Harvey-Pinard skated to the front of the Flyers’ net to earn himself a chance on the game’s first shift. That was the highlight for Montreal in the opening five minutes as Philadelphia kept them in the defensive zone.
7:43 into the contest, a terrible play on the puck by Price was compounded when Clague tried to go through the middle to clear the zone. He missed and James Van Riemsdyk caught a scrambling Price cheating off his post to fit a puck into a tiny hole that made Price look bad to open the scoring.
That goal woke up the Canadiens as Jeff Petry missed two scoring chances on the next shift. This was compounded by Montreal earning three consecutive 2-on-1s but they were way too generous on all scoring chances and didn’t even register a single shot on net. These chances were interrupted when Clague was guilty of a hooking penalty, though the Habs got the better chances during their penalty kill.
With 5:30 left in the period, the Flyers extended their lead when Ivan Provorov was the benefactor of a set play off a won offensive zone faceoff to beat Price.
A minute later, the Habs were able to create a scramble around Martin Jones’ crease which led to Mike Hoffman putting home the Habs’ first goal of the game. The Flyers wanted to challenge the goal since the pass to Hoffman came from the hand of Gallagher. It was ruled that a missed hand pass was not reviewable (even though it is), so it was a good goal.
On the next shift, Caufield fired a cannon off the post. With a minute to play in the period, Travis Sanheim was called for elbowing Anderson. The minute-long advantage looked good as Hoffman hit both the crossbar and post on the same shot before Gallagher put the rebound through the crease instead of in the net.
The second minute of the advantage kicked off the second period as the Canadiens were able to start the period in the offensive zone. This advantage would be short-lived as Petry was called for a blatant interference penalty 90 seconds into the period. Philadelphia’s advantage gave up more scoring chances to the Habs, but also created a good chance that was met with a nice stop by Price.
5:28 in, a Petry point shot was re-directed by Evans with Harvey-Pinard all over Jones in front of the net as the game was tied.
With 13:11 left in the period, Oskar Lindblom skated through four Habs players to get to a loose puck. He then shot from a terrible angle to beat Price who appeared lost in his crease. It was another ugly goal that restored Philadelphia’s lead.
The second half of the game kicked off with a Travis Konecny goal as he was able to get a breakaway and beat Price with a straight-forward shot as Price appeared slow on the play.
This latest two-goal lead stunned the Habs as they appeared stunned for a few minutes following the Konecny goal. The Flyers continued to pepper Price who stood tall and kept the Habs within two. Montreal woke up in the final three minutes of the period as they pushed back and created some scoring chances.
Konecny and Gallagher were sent off for after the whistle activities with a minute left. This created some 4-on-4 play and it was David Savard taking advantage and creating two good scoring chances for himself as the period ended with the shots at 25 apiece.
The third period saw the Habs cheat offensively and give up some dangerous-looking plays early on that the Flyers could not capitalize on. After a sloppy first five minutes, the Canadiens settled down and got some offensive zone time, but Philadelphia had the middle of the zone locked down, so the scoring chances were few and far between.
With 8:25 to play, Rem Pitlick was caught for tripping in the neutral zone as the Flyers got a third chance to score on the power play. Once again, it was the Canadiens with the best scoring chance as Poehling made a brilliant pass to Tyler Pitlick who rang yet another shot off the crossbar as Jones was beat on the play.
Morgan Frost put the game on ice as he extended the lead to 5-2 a couple of minutes after the man advantage. It was a strange play as Noah Cates beat two Habs in a board battle to then victimize Dvorak who was covering for a defenceman with a nice pass to Frost. Price was beat five-hole on the play.
Poehling then hit another post for the Habs as their luck simply was not there on this night. Rem Pitlick then coughed up the puck in the neutral zone and Van Riemsdyk skated in and simply beat Price with a shot. Not a great game for Price. Caufield got one back with 2:27 to play as he fired a bad angle shot to fool Jones to end the scoring and put him one goal away from a 20-goal season.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Jeff Petry
Petry played a really strong game as he supported the attack throughout the first and third periods, got a shot through for his assist in the second period, and was overall engaged and solid defensively. This is the player that will be shopped by the Habs in the summer, and this type of effort should remind many teams what the player’s strengths are and what they’ll potentially be acquiring.
Stats: 1 assist, +2, 3 shots, 21:21 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jake Evans
Another strong game for Evans who scored a second goal in as many games for him. This is, as per usual, an offensive contribution to add to his excellent defensive play and overall positioning. He allowed Harvey-Pinard to simplify his game and look really strong all game long also. He might be in the wrong chair on the team’s second line, but he’s a player who is making Dvorak quite easily tradeable if the team ever lands a talent worthy of being a centre on the top two lines.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 14:20 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Mike Hoffman
After Petry, I’m highlighting Hoffman, so I guess it was a decent night for the current whipping boys of the team. Hoffman played some pretty good hockey for most of the season until a recent stretch of games where he was placed in positions to have the puck on his stick way too much. Hoffman is a shooter who doesn’t really have the hockey awareness to be the guy handling the puck. Many bad decisions were made by Hoffman which then led to said player struggling. It was nice to see him get one in, and his strongest attribute came back after his goal as he quickly hit another post on the power play. He’ll never be a smooth player that makes good decisions with the puck, but he can still put the puck in the net while management prepares the next generation. Good game played within his strengths on this night for Hoffman.
Stats: 1 goal, -2, 2 shots, 13:48 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Tyler Pitlick
Much like Rem, I knew little about Tyler Pitlick when he was acquired from Calgary. As he becomes comfortable on the team, I like what he brings to the team if played in a specific role. If I appreciate Rem in a third line role, I think Tyler brings an interesting intensity and skill set for the fourth line and would not mind at all seeing him back in Montreal to fill that role next season.
Stats: -1, 1 shot, 11:37 T.O.I.