MONTREAL – It was a see-saw battle, but the Philadelphia Flyers found a way to win another one.
Andrej Meszaros scored 8:08 into the third period as the Flyers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
The Canadiens came back to tie the game three times, but the Flyers (20-7-3) prevailed to reclaim sole possession of first place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
“That was not an easy game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Those guys deserve credit for how they competed and battled for the win.
“That should not be taken lightly.”
Meszaros took a pass at the point from Jaromir Jagr and drilled a shot through traffic past Carey Price to settle what had been an end-to-end battle.
Max Talbot, Harry Zolnierczyk and Wayne Simmonds also scored and Matt Carle had three assists for Philadelphia, which boasts a league-best 12-3-1 road record.
David Desharnais, Louis Leblanc and Erik Cole scored for Montreal (13-12-7), which ended a two-game winning streak and saw its home record drop to 5-6-6.
“We battled hard, but the difference was that three of our young players made mistakes at different times and they capitalized,” said Montreal coach Jacques Martin.
The Flyers were playing their second game without NHL scoring leader Claude Giroux, who has a concussion, and the team announced before the game that captain Chris Pronger would miss the rest of the season with severe concussion symptoms.
Forward Scott Hartnell said the players were not informed of the Pronger decision before the game.
“It’s a big loss,” he said. “We’ve been playing well without him and we’ve just got to keep battling.”
The Flyers have won nine of their last 10 games.
“It’s just simple hockey,” added Hartnell, who ended a six-game goal-scoring streak. “It’s fun hockey. It’s in your face. We’re skating all the time. We’re getting pucks deep. Not trying to be fancy. A team like Montreal thrives on turnovers. It leads to good shifts, good periods and we’ve been rolling.”
Montreal had the first scoring chance of the night but Tomas Plekanec was stoned on a breakaway by Sergei Bobrovsky. However, the Flyers got the first goal when Talbot beat Price with a quick shot from the left side at 12:07.
Montreal’s Desharnais circled the net and shot over the fallen Bobrovsky 5:02 into the second. Zolnierczyk got Philly’s lead back with his second of the season only 46 seconds later to make it 2-1.
The crowd of 21,273 rose for long applause when 20-year-old local product Leblanc scored his first NHL goal at 13:24 of the second period. He was left alone in front to force in Mike Blunden’s feed.
“Too bad it didn’t come in a win,” Leblanc said.
Hard work by Simmonds after a power play ended saw him extend his goal streak to four games as he put in a rebound from the doorstep at 18:10.
But Cole tied it 3-3 with 16 seconds left in the period as Max Pacioretty’s pass went off Bobrovsky’s stick, off the Montreal winger and in off the crossbar. Cole also has a goal in each of his last four games.
The Flyers are 15-3-2 since Oct. 29.
Notes: Philadelphia is 12-4-1 without Pronger in the lineup this season. . . Carle, who got his 100th assist as a Flyer, has seven points in his last four games. . . Flyers rookie Brayden Schenn said he felt no ill effects after his first practice Wednesday since his concussion and he skated hard again on Thursday. There is no time set for his return. . . Montreal defenceman Raphael Diaz was sick, so Alexei Emelin returned to the lineup. . . Travis Moen sat out with a lower body injury and was replaced by Blunden. . . Tomas Kaberle got an assist and has four points in his first three games as a Canadien.