It’s always tough to bounce back from a series-opening loss, especially if you’re the Montreal Canadiens who were arguably the better of the two teams on Wednesday night. It’s made even more difficult when your head coach suffers a medical emergency and has to leave the team for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, Claude Julien is resting and doing well following his procedure, after handing the reins to Kirk Muller behind the bench.
Muller made one lineup change, with Jake Evans sliding into the lineup in place of the veteran Dale Weise. The Philadelphia Flyers made no changes at all to their winning lineup, so between the pipes it was Carey Price against Carter Hart once again.
It didn’t take long for a hungry Montreal side to get on the board against Hart on Friday. Just over a minute into the game, Brendan Gallagher spun off the end boards, throwing a shot off of Hart’s pads, and right to the stick of Tomas Tatar, who easily put the rebound home to get his first goal of the playoffs.
The Habs kept pounding away, with Gallagher finding another rebound that forced Hart into a lunging save, and the waves kept coming with Nate Thompson taking a seat for a slashing penalty. The power play had some small changes, with Jeff Petry and Shea Weber on one unit, and Victor Mete on the second. The advantage had a few bright moments, but also surrendered an odd-man rush against that Kevin Hayes fired high and wide over Price.
The Canadiens continued to pummel Philadelphia, building an 11-0 shot advantage and refusing to relent as the first period passed the halfway mark. Then it was an ugly goal that put Montreal up by a pair with just over seven minutes left. A shot bounced into the air off of Shayne Gostisbehere, Max Domi batted it toward the net, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi hacked away at it until it trickled by Hart to make it a 2-0 game.
With just over four minutes left, the Flyers finally got a shot on net, and in almost disastrous fashion it nearly made its way by Price, who was sprawled on his butt after the initial shot. The defence cleared the puck out of danger and Montreal resumed its attack.
With under a minute remaining, Domi took advantage of a defensive lapse. He broke away from the nearest defender, and drew a holding call that gave the Habs an advantage to start the second period.
In case the first period wasn’t enough indication that the Habs were firing on all cylinders, their power play buried a third goal to start the second period. Max Domi saved the puck, dishing off for Mete to send a pass up to Tatar. It was Tatar who then used Justin Braun as a screen as he wired a shot off the post and in for a three-goal Montreal lead.
A pair of back-to-back penalties on Jonathan Drouin and Artturi Lehkonen put the Canadiens in a precarious spot with their newfound lead. With 98 seconds of three-on-five to kill off. Montreal would be hard-pressed to preserve the score, but the Canadiens’ penalty-killers, namely Price, fended the attack off without allowing a goal.
The lead stayed at three for most of the rest of the period, but with about two minutes left to play the Habs fortunes shined once again. Joel Armia took a puck from Evans and muscled his way around Justin Braun, then fired a low shot that banked in off Gostisbehere’s skate and through Hart’s five-hole. That goal ended the young goalie’s afternoon, drawing Brian Elliott into the fracas.
Elliott got an immediate hit from a streaking Domi at the end of the period as a welcome, giving the Flyers a power play to start the final period.
The Flyers power play managed to do little to trouble Price, who was locked in as the third period started, even when Derek Grant got a wide-open look after a shot hit off the end boards and Price denied him with a sliding toe save to keep his shutout intact. Travis Konecny, angry already, then cross-checked Jonathan Drouin from behind, giving Montreal another chance to increase their lead. That power play yielded nothing, but it wasn’t long before Grant decided to run into Price and put Montreal back on the man advantage.
The Habs made this one count as Domi fed a pass to Kotkaniemi, and the centreman dangled around a Flyers defender, then roofed his second goal of the game, and fourth of the post season, to all but seal the game.
That goal was all the Canadiens needed to coast out the remainder of the period, even with some post-whistle shoving and tussling. With the final whistle blowing Montreal not only scored a huge 5-0 win after a Game 1 letdown, they pulled off a huge, emotional win for their coach Claude Julien.
Everything the team needed to go right went right and then some for Montreal. Now they have to keep this same energy as they roll into Game 3 on Sunday night at 8:00 PM EDT. It’s a new test for Kirk Muller, who now has the advantage of last change as the home team as well.