MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau thinks his players need to update their calendars and realize that last season is over.
The Canadiens slump continued Saturday night as Jeff Carter and Scottie Upshall scored to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-1 victory.
That’s two straight losses and four in the last five games for the Habs, and Carbonneau believes his team thought they would have an easy time of it coming off a year where they finished with the Eastern Conference’s best record.
“We did some nice things last year, but last year is last year,” Carbonneau said. “When you start a new season you don’t start with 20 goals or 13 assists or 40 assists, you start at zero. You have to work for those points, and right now we have guys who think they’re working, but they’re not working.”
Martin Biron made 24 saves and Mike Richards ran his point streak to eight games with an assist for the Flyers (6-6-4), who won for the second time in three games.
Alex Tanguay scored his team-leading eighth goal for the Canadiens (9-4-2), who head out on a three-game road trip that Carbonneau thinks might be therapeutic for his team.
“Maybe it will let us regroup,” he said. “We can stop listening to the radio, watching TV and reading the newspapers telling us how good we are, how nice we are and how well we did last year.”
Biron has struggled for much of the season after a very strong playoff last year, a major reason why the Flyers were able to eliminate the Canadiens in five games in the second round.
That performance is likely why the sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 began chanting his name early in the game, and Biron said that charged him up.
“I think in some ways it’s a form of respect,” he said. “I mean, I’m flattered by the fans here that they found that I should be a target for them to try to get off the game, and that’s a lot of fun.”
Jaroslav Halak got the nod in the Canadiens net and had a solid game, making 29 saves to bounce back from poor outings in his last two starts.
The Canadiens’ recent struggles had been defensive, allowing 20 goals in their previous five games, but Saturday night it was the offence that failed to muster much of anything through two periods before making a charge in the third that came up short.
However, defenceman Josh Gorges – who took over for the injured Mike Komisarek on the Habs top pairing – feels it’s the defence that prevented the offence from being effective because Montreal had so much difficulty clearing its own zone.
“It’s starting to get a little repetitive, we’ve been saying it for the last four or five games now and we need to change it in a hurry,” Gorges said. “When you don’t get the puck out and you lose a battle, you spend an extra 30 seconds in your zone. By the time you get it out, you don’t even have enough energy to go in on the offence. You just dump it in and change and they get the puck back. So we’re killing ourselves and not using our assets by not winning the battles down low in our end.”
After a first period full of penalties but void of too many quality scoring chances, the Flyers completely took over in the second, outshooting the Habs 18-7 and scoring twice to grab a 2-0 lead.
Upshall opened the scoring at 5:30 when Richards beat Patrice Brisebois to a puck along the side boards and fed it in front to Upshall, who redirected over Halak’s glove hand for his second of the year.
Ryan O’Byrne’s clearing attempt was turned over in the neutral zone and led to a 2-on-1 break that turned into a break for Carter, who roofed his wrist shot past Halak for his team-high 11th of the season at 15:36.
The Canadiens came out for the third period with more intensity, likely due to some wholesale line changes by Carbonneau.
“I made a few line changes and they woke up,” he said. “They decided to work.”
Tanguay finally got Montreal on the board at 9:44 of the final frame when he took a nice pass from Saku Koivu and slid it inside the far post.
The Canadiens had a chance to tie it late in the third when Carter was called for hooking at 16:49, but Montreal only managed one shot on goal on the ensuing power play.
Notes: Komisarek was scratched after hurting himself in a fight with Bruins winger Milan Lucic in Montreal’s 6-1 loss in Boston on Thursday night. He will be out at least a week and will not accompany the Canadiens on their road trip. Winger Mathieu Dandenault was a healthy scratch for Montreal. … The Canadiens honoured 15 of Quebec’s medallists from this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics prior to the game. … Flyers D Ossi Vaananen, recovering form a broken finger, was out of the lineup, as was injured C Daniel Briere.