They don't ask how you win them. I don't know who they are, but they're not us, anyway. We usually give a lot of focus on how games were won and lost, and the way this game turned on its head was fairly simple; a little bit of score effects, and the Montreal Canadiens remembered that they're a much better team than the Philadelphia Flyers.
Through two periods, the Canadiens played the Flyers relatively even at five-on-five, but were absolutely obliterated on special teams, and got torn up pretty bad when it came to scoring chances. Carey Price stemmed some of the bleeding, but he didn't exactly stand on his head, so Montreal entered the third period down 3-0.
There weren't very many people who expected anything but a loss, aside from perhaps the 19 skaters on Montreal's side, who seem to have a swagger to them that hasn't been present at any time that I've been covering the Habs. This team knows that it can work themselves out of trouble, and they have the skill to make their own luck, even with bounces going against them.
Pouring on immense pressure in the third period, you could tell that if they could just get one goal to go in, the game would have a very different look. Ray Emery put on one of the better performances I've seen from him, but eventually Andrei Markov took advantage of a little chaos in front of the net, and his seeing eye shot found mesh.
Just over two minutes later, P.A. Parenteau had two shots blocked by Luke Schenn before finally getting one on Emery that bounced right to Tomas Plekanec, who continued his furious goalscoring pace to put the Canadiens within one.
Not satisfied with just a goal, Plekanec then converted a pass from Andrei Markov into a one-timed slap-pass to Alex Galchenyuk in front of the net, who tipped the puck past Emery and in, tying the game and, eventually, sending it to a shootout.
In a true rarity, the usual shootout heroes in Galchenyuk and the hyper-slick David Desharnais couldn't connect, but Carey Price once again held the fort, keeping himself big on five Flyers attempts, until P.A. Parenteau iced the game for Montreal.
Apparently this has to become a regular feature since so many people seem to have it out for him. Tom Gilbert has played three real games for the Canadiens. In those games, he has started in the offensive zone on just 31% of his non-neutral zone faceoffs, started over 50% of the team's defensive zone starts at even strength in total, and still put up a sparkling 57.1% Fenwick.
To put it very simply, Michel Therrien trusts Gilbert. He trusts him a lot. And Gilbert has rewarded that trust by being one of the Habs' best players through the first three games. When he's on the ice, the puck goes towards the other zone, consistently.
When Gilbert struggles, and he will, because all players do at times, then he should be criticized. But for right now, Gilbert has been phenomenal.
Carey Price mentioned after the game that the Canadiens had to start working on their starts. No kidding.
Through the first periods of all three games so far, and including the second period of this one, the Canadiens have been outshot 53-26 in all situations. In the other five periods of play, Montreal has outshot their competition 68-36. If the Habs can get off on the right foot right from the start, it's likely that they would be one of the more dominant possession teams in the league, but so far they're just too sleepy.
I don't buy the tired excuse against Washington since they continually got better as the game went on, and I can't imagine that they were completely unprepared for the games, then the coaching staff managed to magically come up with perfect game plans three straight times in intermissions. It just seems like mental mistakes leading to slow starts.
Whatever it is, it hasn't burned them yet, but it's something they clearly need to improve on soon, because that stuff always comes back to haunt you eventually.
One thing the Canadiens can be happy with though, is that they're scoring at a solid rate at even-strength, where all their goals have come from so far. If they're able to get their powerplay going, which is currently a mess, we might not be talking about slow starts anymore.