MONTREAL -- Back on French Canadian home ice, the Montreal Canadiens found themselves speaking the language of ... the Philadelphia Flyers: bang the body, fight for space, get some production from unsung heroes and make life tough for the opposing goalie. In essence, play like you mean it.
With a solid bounce-back game that may have changed the tenor of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Canadiens got themselves back into the series with a well-earned 5-1 win at the Bell Centre Thursday night. Call it what you will. Flyers captain
This was not a score inflated by bad bounces and soft goals, either. These were the Canadiens who bounced both Washington and Pittsburgh, two certain Stanley Cup contenders, rather than the team that at times approached the opposing net in Philadelphia as though it was littered with land mines. Montreal still trails the series, 2-1, but now the Flyers are the ones who need to make adjustments and the Canadiens, renewed with confidence, merely need to hit the rewind and replay buttons for Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.
"We played with the kind of desperation we should have had in their building," said Canadiens forward
After a pair of shutouts in the first two games on home ice, Flyers goalie
For starters, Montreal's
Later in the period, Flyers' defensive stalwart
The Habs increased the lead to 3-0 at 11:33 of the second on a rare weak effort from Leighton and another example of strong offensive net presence that was sorely lacking in the first two games. Moore sent a shot from the high slot through a two-man screen, as Lapierre did a good job of keeping
Though he lost his shutout streak, Leighton still showed moments of strong work in a losing cause with the Habs finally going to the net. Late in the second period, he made a superb poke check against Plekanec, who was all alone in front of the Philadelphia crease with nary a Flyer nearby. It was typical of the buzz and jump the Canadiens showed from the opening whistle. "I think speed and quickness is something we have and we have to use," said Montreal coach
By contrast, Montreal goalie
In the opening minutes of the final period, Hamrlik sent a high, looping pass from center ice that landed flat, just inside the Flyers' blue line. Carle, the Philadelphia defenseman closest to the pass, took himself straight out of the play by leaping up for and whiffing at the puck rather than backing up to go chase it. Gionta then caught up to the puck and found himself alone with Leighton. After fake to his backhand put the goaltender on his stomach, Gionta then switched to his forehand and slid the puck into an open corner to make it 4-0.
After riding a six-game post-season win streak into a tough opposing building, the Flyers know they were spanked for the first time in a while. It's no surprise, given the pluck the Canadiens have shown in getting this far in the playoffs. The last few minutes, so the Flyers hope, was a sign of a meaner, more determined team that will recover on Saturday.
"Honestly, they wanted the game more than we did," said Gagne. "If you work hard, you get those shooting lanes. It's a product of good effort."