MONTREAL -- Perhaps this was why the Montreal Canadiens seemed so loose and so confident when they arrived here on Wednesday.
They knew that if they just stayed the course, if they just made a few adjustments and got to the net a little bit more and capitalized on their opportunities, things would be fine. One goal would turn into several.
That's exactly what transpired on Thursday night.
Tom Pyatt had a goal and an assist and Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves as the Canadiens cut their deficit to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals with a 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 at a raucous Bell Centre.
The Canadiens, who had been shut out in the first two games of this series and outscored by a 9-0 margin in Philadelphia, can even things up with another victory in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.
"I don't know if they would come in bunches," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said of his team's ability to finally find the back of the net. "I think that to me what's important is the process. The goals are a result of actions, and I think sometimes if your focus is on the result, you miss the boat. I liked the way we played. I liked the way we executed."
Michael Leighton made 33 saves in the loss and saw his shutout streak end 7:05 into the game after having not allowed a goal in 172 minutes and 55 seconds. Simon Gagne scored the lone goal for the Flyers, while defensemen Chris Pronger and Matt Carle and forward Blair Betts were all minus-3.
"That was an old-fashioned (butt) kicking," Flyers captain Mike Richards said.
His coach agreed.
"You can run with that," Peter Laviolette said. "That's good. It's one game. That's all it is."
Mike Cammalleri put an end to Leighton's shutout streak by scoring his 13th goal of the playoffs. With the teams at even strength, P.K. Subban fired a wrister that bounced off the end boards and landed right on Cammalleri's stick near the left post, where he quickly slammed it into the net for Montreal's first goal of the series.
That was a good omen for the Canadiens, who are now 8-2 when they score first -- but just 1-6 when they don't.
"That momentum kind of helped us," Cammalleri said. "It was nice for us to get one. We were just trying to get some pucks on net and trying to get traffic to the net and start banging and crashing away a little bit. The puck just popped out to me.
"Don't get me wrong … we needed to score to win. But the result really drives the talk. I did we did some things OK in the last game. I think we lose 3-0 and it's our second game of not scoring, so for everyone in this room and for everyone watching, it's a big deal to talk about. But we liked the way we played and we felt the goals were going to come."
Pyatt doubled the Canadiens' lead with 3:08 left in the first period on another even-strength tally. After Pronger coughed up the puck in his own zone, Pyatt, who had just one goal in 16 games, beat Carle to Maxim Lapierre's rebound and got a piece of it with his stick to poke it over the goal line to make it 2-0.
Cammalleri nearly scored again in the final seconds of the first period, when his rebound attempt hit the goal post during a two-man advantage. Montreal outshot Philadelphia 17-9 and controlled the tempo in the opening 20 minutes for a third straight game.
"They handed it right to us right from the get-go," Richards said. "I don't know if we thought we just had to throw our sticks on the ice and it was going to be easy. But give them credit … they played hard, all over the ice. They won every puck battle and obviously it shows by the score."
Dominic Moore gave the Canadiens a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Shortly after Montreal killed a penalty, Moore took a pass from Pyatt and let go a wrister from the slot that managed to ooze through Leighton's skates. It was Moore's fourth goal of the playoffs.
Gionta made it 4-0 two minutes into the third period with his eighth goal of the playoffs, as he was sent in alone on a brilliant feed by Roman Hamrlik (plus-4) and beat Leighton via the forehand to put the game out of reach.
"I think at times this year, we've gotten ourselves into trouble when we've gotten a lead and sat back," Gionta said. "Tonight, I thought we did job, especially going into the third. We kept pushing, we kept forechecking. We're a much better team when we're doing that."
Gagne ended Halak's bid for a shutout at 8:22 of the third period, when he took a pass from Daniel Carcillo and fired a turnaround shot from the slot past the Canadiens' goaltender for the first goal by the road team in this series. Halak had stopped the first 20 shots he faced. Marc-Andre Bergeron added Montreal's first power-play goal of the series with 32 seconds remaining.
The victory made for smiles all around in the Canadiens' locker room, but the good feelings came with the knowledge that the Flyers still lead the series.
"We've still got a long way to go," Habs center Scott Gomez said. "The effort was there. We got some breaks tonight."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Shift of the Game: Jacques Martin pleaded with the Canadiens to crash the net more frequently, and his team did just that on Thursday night. It was evident when Tom Pyatt raced to the crease, beat out Flyers defenseman Matt Carle to a loose puck and then poked it over the line at 16:52 of the first period to give Montreal a 2-0 lead.
1 - 0 MTL
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