(Philadelphia, PA) – The Philadelphia Flyers jumped out to a 3-0 second period lead, and held off a late charge by the Montreal Canadiens to capture Game 3 at the Wachovia Center on Monday night, 3-2. The Flyers now lead the Eastern Conference Semifinal series, two games to one.
Philadelphia appeared to the have the game under control, leading 3-0 entering the third period. That changed, though, when Derian Hatcher was whistled for a boarding major and game misconduct at 5:17. Hatcher hit Montreal’s Francis Bouillon face first into the glass, after Bouillon’s hip-check left R.J. Umberger hurting in the corner.
Bouillon felt well enough after the hit to get up and shove Hatcher back from behind, but it was still deemed a five-minute penalty to the veteran defenseman. Tomas Plekanac put the Canadiens on the board at 7:29, and Saku Koivu’s rebound score made it a one-goal game.
The Flyers still had 1:24 left on the major to kill after Koivu’s goal, and later had to fight off a Lasse Kukkonen interference penalty with less than six minutes remaining in the game, but were able to hang on for the victory.
“You give a team like Montreal five minutes on the power play, they have a lot of confidence and they are patient,” said Martin Biron, who had 32 saves on the night. “They got a couple of goals, but we still had about a minute to kill after their goals. We did that, we had a big kill late in the third period, and I think that made the difference for us tonight.”
Montreal outshot the Flyers for the game, 34-14, but could not beat Biron during five-on-five play.
“Marty has been terrific. He has been our best player in this series,” said John Stevens. “That win tonight to me was a win on desperation, especially at the end there, and I think we need to combine that desperation with better execution and it will make the job a lot easier.”
“That’s the main thing, that we got the win tonight,” added Mike Richards. “We did a lot of great things, Marty played well five on five, and I thought we cleared a lot of opportunities. We have to give them credit, their power play is good, they get the puck to the net a lot, and Marty had to make some big saves.”
Game 4 is in Philadelphia on Wednesday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
Montreal held the territorial advantage in the second period, but the Flyers put three pucks past goaltender Carey Price on just seven shots.
First, Scottie Upshall fired home a wrist shot at 7:04 after Joffrey Lupul skated the puck across the blue line from deep in the Flyers’ end. Later in the period with the Flyers shorthanded, Richards took a shot through traffic that may have deflected off of defenseman Mike Komisarek’s skate and inside the post past Price.
Jeff Carter helped generate the third goal with 1:41 left in the period, when he won a battle behind the net, put a backhander on Price, who left the rebound to the far side where Umberger rifled it in. Umberger now has four goals in his last three games.
Philadelphia has led 2-0 in each of the three games of the series, but it was the first time it was able to tally the crucial third goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.
It remained 3-0 at the break thanks to a shoulder save by Biron, who went from his left to his right to smother an attempt by Saku Koivu after a turnover in the defensive zone with 5.8 seconds showing on the clock.
On the other end of the ice, it was Price's second consecutive sub-par effort, as the rookie was pulled after the second period in favor of backup Jaroslav Halak.
Koivu had a brilliant chance to open the scoring in the first period as he stepped out of the penalty box. The Montreal captain skated in alone on Biron, but the goaltender poked the puck away and calmly froze it between his pads just over six minutes into the game.
The Canadiens also had a full two-minute, two- man advantage halfway through the first period, but could not convert, as Christopher Higgins could not corral a bouncing puck while looking at an open net.
Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau was asked after the game about pulling the 20-year-old Price.
“We are trying to ask this kid to be a savior for our club, but again, we had a five-on-three for two minutes, we had five of our best players on the ice,” he said. “Maybe we should blame them also? It’s a team game, we lost as a team, and everybody is to blame. Carey is just one guy.”
The nasty overtones seen in Game 2 remained in the third game. With time winding down in the first period, Steve Downie set off a scrum when he tripped Price while both were going for a loose puck. Komisarek and Lapierre began wailing on Downie, while Hatcher came in to protect the rookie. The Canadiens were awarded a power play after all was said and done, but could not crack Biron.
The Flyers are 17-3 when leading a series two games to one in franchise history. … Mike Knuble missed his fifth straight game with a hamstring injury, but is questionable for Game 4. … Downie and Montreal’s Tom Kostopoulos had words during warmups, presumably over Kostopoulos’ cheap shot of Kimmo Timonen in Game 3.