The Canadiens extended their winning streak to five games, mostly due to an impressive, though rare, showing from the special teams.
The powerplay surged to life with a three-for-three performance, and the penalty kill stood tall, despite allowing a late goal. The Flyers carried the play during the majority of the even strength shifts, but Carey Price rose to the occasion when called upon. The win places Montreal in first overall in the NHL for the time being, having secured 27 points out of a possible 36.
Sergei Gonchar has re-instilled confidence in the powerplay, and his impact has been immediately apparent. The Canadiens went one for five on Thursday, but it was clear from the get-go that Gonchar brings a calmer presence to the man advantage, as well as much needed penchant for putting the puck on net.
The first powerplay goal of the game came early in the first period, thanks to some swift passing between Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Markov and Max Pacioretty. P.A. Parenteau pounced on the rebound left by Ray Emery, scoring his fourth goal of the year.
The Habs added another powerplay goal a few minutes later, with David Desharnais taking advantage of a loose puck on the goalmouth to give Montreal the 2-0 advantage. It was easily Montreal's best opening period of the year, especially when you consider they had only scored four first period goals in the previous 17 games. Montreal went to the locker room with a first period lead for the first time this year, and they did so on the back of two powerplay goals. It was all too surreal.
The second period started much like the first, as the Canadiens scored their third powerplay of the game. Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk and P.K. Subban combined for the prettiest man-advantage goal we've seen in a while, putting the Habs up 3-0, and temporarily placing them in a comfortable state of mind.
After Zac Rinaldo got thoroughly demolished by Brandon Prust, the Canadiens looked to add to their lead, but Tomas Plekanec's goal was waved off, and Brendan Gallagher's reputation received a two-minute minor on the play. Plekanec followed that up with a penalty of his own, placing the Habs in a minute long 5-on-3 penalty kill. Thankfully for the Habs, Philadelphia's usually reliable powerplay was shut down, although the momentum definitely fell into the Flyers' lap.
A bad line change for the Habs led to the second Flyers goal, and Montreal's cushy 3-0 lead became a distant memory. Going into the third period the Habs were ahead, but the Flyers were outplaying them at even strength.
Just over one minute into the third period, a controlled zone entry by David Desharnais, and a simple point shot by Sergei Gonchar culminated in a P.A. Parenteau tip-in goal. It was exactly what the Canadiens needed to start the third, even more so since the Flyers responded shortly after with a powerplay goal of their own. The puck settled just out of reach from Carey Price, and laid there for about 15 seconds as a mad scramble ensued. Matt Read finally scored on what looked more like a rugby play than a hockey play, and once again the Canadiens found themselves hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
The Habs seemed to score a crazy goal of their own, but unfortunately for Brendan Gallagher, when the scenario that allowed Read to score on the Habs repeated itself in Philadelphia's zone, the referees suddenly changed their minds, and the goal was disallowed. It was the second disallowed goal for the Habs on the night. Things weren't looking good.
Enter Dutch Gretzky.
A controlled zone entry by Weise generated an odd-man rush for the Habs, and gave Alex Galchenyuk a prime scoring opportunity in the slot. To the surprise of everyone, including perhaps Dutch Gretzky himself, Galchenyuk quickly sent the puck back to Weise, who beat Ray Emery five-hole.
A few minutes later Plekanec and Galchenyuk hooked up on a pretty play, yet Plekanec's shot only managed to beat Emery, hitting the far side post. Dutch Gretzky, in all his glory, made no mistake, skillfully placing his thigh in a strategic angle to ensure the puck would redirect in to the net. Alright, it hit him and went in, but that was probably Dutch Gretzky's plan all along.
The Habs have no time to rest on their laurels, as they'll be back in action tonight at 7:00 PM EST against the Detroit Red Wings.