Alex Galchenyuk returned (again) as the Montreal Canadiens faced of against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. The Flyers were sitting in the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot; only three wins ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens were coming in off of a confidence-boosting win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Montreal began the game with strong play, claiming the game’s first shot on goal when Tomas Plekanec fired one at Michal Neuvirth. Early hits from the Flyers in an effort to slow the Habs set the tone for what would be a physical game.
A turnover by Claude Giroux at 14:50 led to scoring opportunities for Alexei Emelin and Galchenyuk. It was Nikita Nesterov however, that got the puck past Neuvirth and opened up the scoring for the Canadiens, netting his first for Montreal. The assists came from Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov.
Shortly afterward, a similar giveaway by Phillip Danault gave the Flyers their first scoring chances of the night, courtesy of shots by Ivan Provorov, Chris VandeVelde, and Jakub Voracek.
A delayed tripping call to Torrey Mitchell remained delayed for some time while the Flyers attempted to set up for a six-on-five chance, to no avail. When the power play did begin it opened with two early attempts from Voracek. Both of them were stopped by Price, as was a later attempt by Brayden Schenn.
The Canadiens got their first power play of the game in the second period with VandeVelde sent off for tripping Mitchell. The power play has not been successful in Philadelphia in the recent years, and this one did not change that trend, as the Flyers killed it off without letting Montreal get off any solid shots.
The Flyers maintained a high level of physicality and showed increased energy throughout the second. A takeaway by Nathan Beaulieu resulted in the Habs best chance on net, as Jacob de la Rose got a slapshot off and Plekanec had a good opportunity off the rebound, but Neuvirth was able to make both saves.
In the final minutes of the period Andrew Shaw took a poorly timed tripping penalty against Nick Cousins that halted a Canadiens rush. On the ensuing man advantage, with Wayne Simmonds and Markov blocking Price’s view, the Flyers were able to capitalize. Giroux tied the game with a shot from beyond the circle, with assists from Mark Streit and Schenn.
The third period opened with the Flyers getting an early scoring chance. The shot, courtesy of Brandon Manning, was blocked by Beaulieu. Philadelphia regained possession, and Matt Read fired a perfectly aimed shot that found the back of Price’s net.
Gaining the lead only intensified the Flyers’ offence, and Dale Weise was able to pass the Canadiens defence and get off a shot on Price. Markov was called for tripping on the play and the Candiens returned to the penalty kill. Paul Byron’s speed gained him a short-handed scoring chance. While he didn’t score, he made the power-play unit wary of a counter-attack, and neutralized their chance to extend the lead.
The reunion of the team’s best players on the first line, which had Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov on Galchenyuk’s wings, was responsible for generating some offensive opportunities. Desharnais and new centreman Danault were also able to put some pressure on Nuverith as well, but the netminder was able to maintain his team’s lead.
The Canadiens spent the remainder of the period clearing and disappearing, getting the puck out of their zone just in time to finish their shift and head to the bench, unable to get into the Flyers’ end.
Price was pulled for the final 90 seconds, and Sean Couturier was able to score on the empty net, securing the Flyers a 3-1 home win.
- While Phillip Danault has been playing well with Pacioretty and Radulov, Galchenyuk makes that line significantly more terrifying. After their performance in the previous game, it didn’t make sense to take Danault away from the hat trick hero from Tuesday night. The offensive struggles by the whole team offered the perfect opportunity to insert Galchenyuk back into the top-line spot in an attempt to kickstart the team.
- Andrew Shaw continues to take silly penalties — silly as in unnecessary and not silly as in funny. It seems that Michel Therrien is beginning to feel that way too, as Shaw spent the rest of the night sitting down after his interference penalty.
- Nikita Nesterov played well in his second game, not only scoring a goal, but finishing with his head well above water in terms of possession despite the overall difficulties of the team’s offensive game.