MONTREAL – It was Martin Biron’s night to shine in goal for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Biron made 34 saves and his good friend Daniel Briere got the game-winner as the Flyers downed the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the NHL playoffs on Saturday night.
The victory evened the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at 1-1 with the next two games in Philadelphia on Monday and Wednesday.
“It felt good,” said Biron. “A couple of bounces went against us in the last game and this time a couple went our way – that was the difference.”
R.J. Umberger, with two, and Jeff Carter also scored for the Flyers, who beat Montreal for the first time in six meetings this season.
Saku Koivu and Andrei Markov each had his first of the playoffs for Montreal.
The Canadiens outskated the Flyers and outshot them 36-23, but between a handful of excellent saves by Biron and their own shooters’ inability to hit open nets, they let the Flyers leave town with what they wanted – a win at the Bell Centre to snatch away home ice advantage for the series.
“We’re just glad to get a split out of here,” said Flyers coach John Stevens. “I knew Montreal was going to play better.
“Marty was probably going to have to be our best player – and he was.”
Rookie Carey Price had a shaky start in the Montreal net, allowing three goals on his first 13 shots. Price admitted he could have been sharper, but also said the Canadiens could have won 8-4 if the shooters had converted their numerous chances.
“I think Carey said he could have played better,” said coach Guy Carbonneau. “Three goals on 13 shots, that’s not what we’ve seen from him in the past.
“But those first two goals were good shots. We had open nets and missed them, but a good player makes his own luck and Biron was good.”
The Flyers had blown two-goal leads three times in the this post-season, including in their 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal in Game 1, and nursed a 3-1 lead in the third period until Markov closed the gap to one goal at the 1:26 mark.
“Last game, we had a 3-2 lead and then they got that (tying goal),” Biron said of Game 1. “But tonight, we played with the desperation we had (in the first round) against Washington.
“We didn’t play our best hockey, but we played well enough to get it done. A lot of their shots came off the power play. They’ve got a great attack with sometimes five guys coming up the ice.”
For a second game in a row, Umberger opened the scoring as his wrist shot went off a stick and sailed over a screened Price’s left shoulder 5:53 into the game.
Less than three minutes later, Carter hit the same spot over Price’s shoulder on a rush during a power play.
Montreal failed to score with a two-man advantage for 1:09, but Koivu got one as the second minor was about to end as he came from behind the net and tucked the puck inside the post at 16:18.
The Canadiens poured on the pressure in the second half of the second period, but Biron stoned Tomas Plekanec twice with glove saves, once on a breakaway and again on a blast from in front of the crease during a power play.
The 21,273 spectators, who have booed Briere every time he touched the puck all season after his decision to sign with the Flyers instead of Montreal last summer, were not pleased to see the target of their discontent sweep in front of the net and slide his seventh goal of the playoffs under Price at 13:35.
“It’s a good feeling, but we played well as a group,” said Briere, who insists the boos don’t bother him.
The teams started the third period playing each a man short and Christopher Higgins found Markov with a pass for quick shot into an open side.
The set off a wild third period as the Canadiens shortened their bench and went for the equalizer, but a Markov giveaway led to Umberger’s second of the game with 2:21 left to play. Umberger beat Price to a high pass from Scottie Upshall and the puck went off the post, off the goalie’s skate and in.
“I wasn’t easy,” Briere said of the win. “I liked the way we didn’t sit back this time.
“We kept up the pressure on them in the third period. Marty was amazing. You won’t get anywhere without a good goalie and he’s certainly pulling his weight. And with what he’s going through with his wife giving birth (on April 14 to a daughter), it must be hectic at home, but he’s been so focused on the ice.”
Biron said he makes sure he gets plenty of sleep despite the recent arrival of the couple’s third child.
Stevens was not happy with a shot from behind given by Montreal’s Tom Kostopoulos to the Flyers top defenceman Kimmo Timonen after Umberger’s goal with 2:21 left in the game, which led to a skirmish.
“He’s a tough kid and I have a lot of respect for him and (Steve) begin, but to go up and sucker punch Kimmo on the play at the end there – that’s cowardly, in my opinion,” said Stevens. “There’s no place for that.
“Kimmo’s our best player. He was totally unsuspecting. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
Biron got away with playing the puck in the banned area behind the goal-line, although Price did the same in Game 1 and that wasn’t called either.
Notes: Veteran defenceman Patrice Brisebois was a surprise scratch for Montreal with a leg injury and was replaced by Ryan O’Byrne. Guillaume Latendresse and Michael Ryder also sat out for Montreal, while Riley Cote, Ryan Parent and Denis Tolpeko didn’t dress for the Flyers. . . Philadelphia defenceman Jaroslav Modry has gone home to the Czech Republic to attend the funeral of his father, who died last week of colon cancer. Modry is to return to Philadelphia on Tuesday. . . No Canadien has ever scored on a penalty shot in the playoffs. Charlie Sands (1942), Frank Mahovlich (1971), Mats Naslund (1984) and Andrei Kostitsyn in the series opener on Thursday night were all stopped.