PHILADELPHIA – The Philadephia Flyers have a 2-1 series lead, and just as importantly they’ve rattled the rookie goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens.
For a second game in a row the Canadiens outshot and outchanced Philadelphia, but it’s the opportunistic Flyers who escaped with a 3-2 win on Monday night.
And it’s in large part because Habs netminder Carey Price looked weak on three wrist shots that broke the game open in the second period for the Flyers. The 20-year-old Price, who stopped nine of 12 shots, was pulled in favour of backup Jaroslav Halak to start the third period.
Scottie Upshall, Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger all beat Price in a second period dominated by the Habs in the opening 12 minutes. The Flyers scored two goals on only their first three shots of the period. Two of the goals were on Price’s glove side – an area the Flyers have aimed for in this series.
Price, who has given up seven goals on 35 shots in the last two games, will hope to redeem himself in Game 4 on Wednesday night (CBC, 7 p.m. ET) as the Canadiens look for the road split.
Flyers goalie Martin Biron, meanwhile, continues to befuddle the Canadiens, again looking sharp and in position while controlling his rebounds. He stopped 32 of 34 shots.
Tomas Plekanec and Saku Koivu scored power-play goals in the third period as the Habs made it interesting but failed to get the trying goal. They’ve outshot the Flyers 70-37 in a pair of losses.
The sellout crowd at Wachovia Center was a sea of orange. The Flyers handed out T-shirts before the game that read Crush The Canadiens and below, Vengeance Now. Talk about appropriate after the nasty ending in Game 2 when Habs winger Tom Kotoupolous popped Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen in the head.
A scoreless first period saw Montreal blow a full two-minute, 5-on-3 advantage, the Canadiens looking stationary on a power play that’s been disastrous in the playoffs after dominating the NHL in the regular season.
Montreal winger Chris Higgins had a glorious chance to open the scoring but a great feed from Alex Kovalev bounced on his stick in front an open net. The ice was terrible as the NBA’s 76ers played a playoff game here Sunday night.
Flyers bad boy Steve Downie got the crowd going again near the end of the first period, tripping Price behind the net and attracting several Canadiens as a melee ensued.
The Canadiens came out flying in the second period but again could not finish on their scoring chances. Meanwhile, Upshall opened the scoring at 7:04, his wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle beating Price inside the post on the stick side. It was Philadelphia’s first shot of the period.
The third shot also went in at 15:12 when Richards’ weak wrister from the top of the faceoff circle glanced off Price’s glove and in. Umberger made it 3-0 at 18:19 when he took a loose puck and snapped a shot top corner on Price’s glove side.
The Habs finally got on the board thanks to a costly, five-minute major penalty for boarding to Flyers defenceman Derian Hatcher. First Plekanec banged home a loose puck at 7:29 and then Koivu then made the folks at Wachovia Center nervous when he slid a rebound on his backhand into an open side.
The Canadiens then pressed hard for the equalizer, spending shift after shift in the Philadelphia zone, but they were unable to beat Biron. Montreal outshot Philadelphia 17-2 in the final period.
Notes – Guillaume Latendresse returned to the Montreal lineup in the place of Mathieu Dandenault. Latendresse had been a healthy scratch for four straight games. Michael Ryder remained a scratch for a fifth straight game … Flyers winger Mike Knuble out remained out with a hamstring injury. He’s hoping to play Saturday in Montreal in Game 5 … The third-period duty was Halak’s first-ever appearance in the NHL playoffs. His last appearance this season game March 29 at Toronto.