(Montreal, Quebec) – Scottie Upshall scored late in regulation and R.J. Umberger had a three-point night, as the Philadelphia Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 6-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
After Andrei Kostitsyn’s wrister tied the game at 4-4 early in the third, Upshall got his stick on a shot from Jeff Carter to beat goaltender Carey Price with just 3:04 remaining in the third period. Mike Knuble scored an empty-net goal to cap the scoring with 50 seconds left, assuring the Flyers a place in the NHL’s final four.
“Carter made a great move spinning around and throwing a great shot on net,” said Upshall, describing the game-winning goal. “I had seen it coming and fortunately I had my stick below the cross bar and got her in there.”
The Flyers, who needed just five games to dispatch top-seeded Montreal, now await the winner of the Pittsburgh Penguins-New York Rangers series. Game 5, in which Pittsburgh leads three games to one, is on Sunday afternoon at Mellon Arena (2:00 p.m., NBC).
Philadelphia trailed in the game 3-1 in the second period, and with the raucous, sold out home crowd cheering the Canadiens on, the Flyers scored three goals in a span of 2:58 to take their first lead of the game.
First, Umberger threw one on net from the boards that deflected in off of Mike Richards, who was standing in front of Price at 14:02.
Umberger put in his second goal of the night and eighth of the series at 15:44, when he took advantage of a loose puck behind the net after an aggressive forecheck by Derian Hatcher freed it up. Umberger managed to slip his shot through Price at the side of the net to make it a 3-3 game.
“We got those couple quick goals there and I think it really sparked our team,” said Umberger. “We stayed composed and kept fighting, and that’s really what we’ve done all year.”
Sensing they could break an already rattled Price, Scott Hartnell unleashed a slap shot from the faceoff circle that beat the rookie goaltender to the glove side with exactly three minutes left in the period.
Although Montreal would tie it in the third, the Flyers once again found a way to pull out the victory and move on in what many view as an improbable playoff run for the club that was last overall in the NHL just a year ago.
“We have a flair for the dramatic and a way of making the game exciting. It was just nice to see us exciting coming down from behind,” said John Stevens. “We got down 3-1 and that second goal was big for us, and we really started to mount an attack.”
Umberger’s eight goals against Montreal are the second most for any Flyers player in a single playoff series. Tim Kerr holds the franchise record with 10, when he scored that many against Pittsburgh in a seven-game series in 1989.
“He was a possessed man. We moved him around and he didn’t even bat an eye,” said Stevens, referring to Umberger’s shifting lines throughout the playoff run. “He just wanted to play. He’s just been a force. He’s really matured as a pro and playing in an intense atmosphere like he did here is great to see.”
“We have confidence in this group, we’re playing well together, Marty [Biron] is keeping us in hockey games, and right now I think everybody is playing their best hockey."- Mike Richards
“We have confidence in this group, we’re playing well together, Marty [Biron] is keeping us in hockey games, and right now I think everybody is playing their best hockey,” added Richards. “That’s what you need, a team effort, and we’re getting wins by committee right now.”
Shortly after Price stopped Richards’ shorthanded breakaway early in the game, Tomas Pleaknac tipped in a pass from the point by Patrice Brisebois at 4:29 of the first period on the power play to give Canadiens their first lead of the series in regulation time.
Umberger extended his goal-scoring streak to five games to tie it, swiping in his own rebound while lying on the ice midway through the period, but Montreal came back just a minute and half later when Maxim Lapierre’s wraparound attempt went in off of the skate of Alex Kovalev at 11:28.
Christopher Higgins’ wrist shot from the faceoff dot handcuffed Biron to make it 3-1 in the second period.
The Flyers’ goaltender finished with 31 saves, while Price also stopped 31 in a losing effort. Montreal’s goaltender got the start after sitting out Game 4 in favor of backup Jaroslav Halak.
Philadelphia is the first team in over 20 years to advance to the Conference Finals after finishing with the worst record in the league the previous season (Detroit, 1987). … The Flyers improved to 17-2 when leading a seven-game playoff series three games to one. … Philadelphia is among the NHL’s final four clubs for 15th time in 40 seasons.
- - -
1 - 0 MTL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MTL
3 - 1 MTL
3 - 2 MTL
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 PHI
4 - 4 Tie
5 - 4 PHI
6 - 4 PHI