The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens tonight by a 5-2 count to earn their 1,000th home victory in franchise history.
Chris Pronger tied a career-high with 4 assists, Mike Richards had 2 assists, and Danny Briere had a goal and an assist as the Flyers dominated the visitors for the majority of the game. Sergei Bobrovsky would make 29 saves for his 21st win on the year.
The first period was filled with opportunities for both Montreal and Philly, but the end of the period would witness the powerhouse that is the Flyers' offense open up shop. Bobrovsky kept some close scoring chances from Montreal out of the net early and made 9 saves in the first.
Dan Carcillo made his mark on the game four minutes in. In front of Philly's bench, a Scott Gomez cross check to Carcillo's back allowed Carcillo to over exaggerate the hit to draw a penalty. Frustrated by the call, Gomez backhanded the puck towards Carcillo, who was still laying on the ice. Gomez then tried charging at Carcillo, but was held up by a ref and pushed around by Pronger. The Flyers didn't see a power play, however, as Carcillo went to the box for roughing for tackling Habs captain Brian Gionta along the boards in the Flyers' defensive zone during a post whistle scrum.
The Canadiens saw the first power play of the game briefly after 4-on-4 had ended as Nikolay Zherdev attempted to avenge a hit placed on him by PK Subban from earlier in the game by slashing the young defenseman. After the Flyers killed off the penalty that only saw one shot against, Zherdev left the box and laid a healthy hit on Yannick Weber that nearly landed him in the Canadiens' bench.
With about five minutes left in the period, the Flyers started to dictate play. After Claude Giroux released a shot from the middle of the circles that hit the outside of the right post, the Flyers went on a power play thanks to an Andrei Kostitsyn slash. Then, Jaroslav Spacek was sent away for holding Richards in the corner and Subban went to the sin bin for slashing Briere along the boards.
The trio of penalties took place 91 seconds apart and cost the Canadiens dearly, as the Flyers ripped home a pair of goals.
Eight seconds into the 5-on-3 Philly advantage, Jeff Carter backhanded in a rebound produced by a Richards' shot. While standing at the top of the crease and right in front of Carey Price, Carter backhanded home his 23rd goal of the year between Price's right arm and right leg pad. Hal Gill displayed his frustration by pushing Carter after he and his Montreal teammates failed on the penalty kill.
Handling the puck affectively and showcasing their offensive dominance, the Flyers took a two goal lead with just over a minute left in the first period, cashing in their second consecutive two-man advantage.
Standing just above the circles, Kimmo Timonen accepted a Pronger dish and would rip a shot past a helpless Price for his third goal of the year. Richards was also rewarded with an assist on the play as Philly still had a man advantage for fifty-one seconds. The power-play hat trick was not to be, but the damage was done as the first period concluded.
With no intention of letting up, Carcillo increased Philly's lead to 3-0 twenty-three seconds into the middle period. Gaining control of the puck in between the middle of the circles, Carcillo found open space through Price's 5-hole with a backhander. After getting knocked to the ice, Carcillo would get up to celebrate his 3rd goal of the year and second in his last 21 games.
Relentless offensive pressure from the Flyers ensued for the next few minutes until Sean O'Donnell went to the box for a questionable interference call on Travis Moen. As Moen was entering the Canadiens' offensive zone O'Donnell slightly pushed him resulting in Moen flopping to the ice. Rather than flagging Moen down for diving, O'Donnell went to the box alone. Montreal didn't utilize the advantage as they only registered one shot on net for the two minutes.
The Flyers saw their fifth power play of the game after David Desharnais went to the sin bin for slashing Blair Betts. Despite keeping up their offensive onslaught, Philly was unable to convert with the man advantage keeping the score 3-0.
The Canadiens didn't give up despite receiving thirty-three minutes of abuse from the orange and black. Several chances and scrums near Bobrovsky's crease led to a Desharnais blast from the point through traffic finding the back of the net as Bob never saw the puck. Desharnais' 3rd goal of the season kept Montreal within modest reach seeing the score become 3-1.
Lightning in a bottle could have seen Montreal take away all of Philly's momentum and put them right back in a position to win the game.
It almost happened as Spacek released a shot from the top of the left circle that hit Bobrovsky's sleeve then hit the inside of the right post. Bob would reach back and cover the back on the goal line and a brief review showed Montreal had not scored as the puck dangled on the line but not over it.
As the period was winding down, what looked like the Flyers worst power play on the night (off a too many men on the ice call) turned out to be the team's third successful attempt in the game.
After spending time in their defensive zone and creating the least chances yet with the man advantage, Briere stood just inside the blue line between the circles and saucered a pass to Hartnell who settled down the puck as he was skating past the left face off dot, then sent the puck to Giroux's stick as he was skating past the right side of the net.
A dejected Price, who had dropped to his knees awaiting a Hartnell shot, turned to witness Giroux placing his 19th goal of the year in the back of the net and saw his team regain their three-goal deficit as the score became 4-1.
The third period began with Philly killing off the remaining 1:43 in a Andrej Meszaros slashing penalty. Physical play found its place early in the period as Lars Eller put a strong hit on Hartnell in the Flyers' offensive zone. A minute later, Carcillo and Ryan White exchanged words and shoves off of a face off. One way to get back into a game is through physical play and the Canadiens used it effectively.
Minutes after the violent interactions between both teams, Andreas Nodl went to the box for tripping about six minutes into the period. After successfully killing off that penalty without any real chance coming from Montreal, Pronger was sent away for a weak roughing call on Scott Gomez in the corner.
This penalty-kill went worry free as well as there were no solid Montreal scoring chances. However, the fear of another late game collapse loomed as the Canadiens started to control the play to a certain extent.
After much Flyers' pugilism, the Canadiens cut the home team's lead in half with just under five minutes left in the game. Mathieu Darche threw a pass to the slot while skating along the boards to Bobrovsky's left. The puck bounced off Braydon Coburn's upper leg/mid section redirecting the pass in between Bob's legs and into the net for Darche's 9th goal of the season.
As if the outcome was in any doubt, Briere made sure it was with his 26th goal of the season. With Price on the bench, Briere let a shot go from just past the red line next to the Canadiens bench and watched the shot slide in.
The goal, by the rightful owner of an All-Star berth, made the lead 5-2 with 25 seconds remaining.
Both of Philly's special teams units, power play and penalty kill, played extremely well tonight. The powerplay converted on 3-of-5 chances while the penalty kill successfully turned aside all seven of Montreal's power-play opportunities. Carter, Timonen, and Giroux all clicked on the advantage tonight for Philly.
Consistent play 5-on-5 has allowed the Flyers to stand at the top of the standings despite having mediocre special teams. It's nice to see a win come in overwhelming fashion due to the special teams play, as the Flyers were just 13-for-108 coming in.
Always looking for a psychological edge, Richards gets the last laugh in the battle between he and young blueliner Subban. On a night where Richards' had a pair of assists, Subban showed his rookie flaws. With his team in a big enough hole, Subban slashed Briere up high to put the Flyers on an extended 5-0n-3. The slash was easily avoidable and the penalty pretty much handed the Flyers a two goal lead just before the end of the period.
On a less important play, Subban was also incapable of keeping the puck in the zone due to a stickless Jody Shelley pressuring him out of the zone. A simple dump or cross ice pass would have allowed the Canadiens to take advantage of a Flyer without a stick, but since Subban focuses on himself and looks for highlight reel plays Montreal had to evacuate the zone.
Notes: The Flyers improved to 18-1-0 when leading after the 1st period (were leading 2-0 tonight), and are the first team to reach 70 points league-wide (currently have 71)...Philly went 3-1-0 against Montreal for the 2010-2011 season and are currently 10-3-0 against the Northeast division (BOS 1-2-0, MTL 3-1-0, BUF 2-0-0, TOR 2-0-0, OTT 2-0-0).