Philadelphia (1) vs Montreal (8): It's Alive!
After one of their most pathetic efforts of the year, the Montreal Canadiens were looking to avoid elimination against the top seeded Flyers last night. They would be in tough, trying to break Carter Hart’s two game shutout streak and provide their fan base with a little hope. Montreal started fast, sending waves of attackers at the Flyers, who, in turn, used this as an opportunity to create some end-to-end action. Ben Chiarot came streaking in from his right. Driving hard to the net, he couldn't slow his momentum, and gave Philly the first power play of the game. Lucky for Montreal, the Flyers have been abysmal since the restart and halfway through their power play, allowed a shorthanded goal to Joel Armia. Xavier Ouellet dumped the puck off the end boards behind Philadelphia’s net; the puck bounced right to Armia in the slot, who fired a quick, hard shot low-glove side, sneaking it between the pad and glove, making the score 1-0 for the Habs. Montreal looked to be taking a page out of the Flyers’ manuscript, and with the 1-0 lead, they looked satisfied. This allowed the Flyers to start pushing the play and without Carey Price saving 4 Kevin Hayes chances, the score would be very different. Hayes must have had nightmares all night after this one. After drawing a late penalty, Montreal starts the second on a power play which has been equally as powerless as the Flyers’. After the power play, Muller sends out Kotkaniemi to create some energy. At the end of a good shift, he boards Travis Sanhiem and is ejected from the game. THAT WAS RIDICULOUS. Sanhiem clearly saw KK coming to finish the hit and did nothing to brace for the impact. He turned his body, presenting his back after Kotkaniemi was already committed. The refs should watch the hit that knocked Kotkaniemi out back against the Avs in December to compare who’s hit was more egregious; this was a play in which the opposing player didn't receive a penalty, but I digress. With KK being ejected and given a 5-min major, Philadelphia was back on the power play. This time, it only took them moments to score as Voracek threw a puck towards Price which tipped off Chiarot’s stick and in. To add insult to injury, Voracek closed the power play like they opened it, again throwing a puck in off of Chiarot to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead and suck all hope out of an offensively challenged team. This is where the series started to go into unfamiliar territory for these two teams. Armia, who has been promoted to the top 9 with KK gone, took advantage and put a sharp angle shot past Hart, knotting the score at 2-2. After Phillipe Myers tried to break Jake Evans’ nose with his stick, he was given a 4-min minor and it was Montreal’s turn for the power play. Brendan Gallagher finally broke through, batting a Suzuki pass out of mid-air and over the shoulder of Carter Hart. The expression and scream said it all for a player who had been on a cold streak for some time. With the flood gates open, Suzuki looked to sneak a weak one past Hart, which caused Alain Vigneault to pull the young goalie. After the play was determined to be offside; Drouin always trying to cheat for offense jumped over the line moments before the puck. Hart was allowed to remain in the crease going into the third, after a quick chat with Vigneault. Montreal tested Hart every chance they got, looking to see if the premature hook had an effect on his mental game, but he proved he was up to the challenge. The period provided the most wide-open action we’ve seen all series with both teams getting some great chances. After Petry hauled down Hayes on a semi-breakaway, the Flyers were given another power play. This time, Vorcek decided to use his own teammate for a deflection. Joel Fabree redirected Vorcek’s pass past Price to tie it up at 3-3, giving the Flyers the momentum. Fortunately for Habs fans, it was a short-lived tie, and Suzuki gets one that counts. With the Habs holding on for dear life, the final minutes were wild. Gallagher got his jaw broken with no call and was spitting blood everywhere, while chances were being traded at both ends. Phillip Danult returned the favour to Vorcek and banked one off of him into the empty net to seal the win for Montreal 5-3. This game had as many goals as the previous 3 combined and the intensity factor looks to be ratcheted up. After two of the most boring hockey games in recent memory, we were treated to an epic battle. Let’s hope the fight continues.