Don’t look now but the Montreal Canadiens have now won three straight and sit atop the Northeast division with 19 points. A decisive home victory over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers tonight now have the Habs on a roll with production coming from up and down the lineup. With Carey Price out with the flu Petr Budaj would make his third start of the season while the Flyers went with Brian Boucher making this matchup that much more interesting. Budaj is coming off a solid outing against the Buffalo Sabres and Boucher was making his first start of the season tonight.
With the Habs playing well as of late the Flyers needed up their game if they were to climb into a playoff spot where many expected them to be at this point. However you cannot score if you do not shoot the puck. Not only did the Flyers only throw 19 pucks Budaj’s way but how can you expect results with just two after the first period and 10 after 40 minutes? It’s not like they didn’t have their chances, just poor execution. However Montreal was playing like a team enjoying their recent success and looking to keep it going as they once again opened the scoring with Brendan Gallagher beating Boucher for his fifth of the season. Assists credited to Max Pacioretty (7) and Raphael Diaz (10).
The second frame saw both teams trade goals with David Desharnais potting his fourth from Gallagher (3) and Pacioretty (8) and Danny Briere scoring just his third from Voracek (8) and Brayden Schenn (8). Now with the third period normally acting as an uphill fight even with the lead as of late Montreal was able to build on their lead and successfully hold until the final buzzer. For the second time in the game the Habs would score a goal within the first five minutes of the period when Tomas Plekanec regained the puck after his first attempt was blocked and beat a sprawling Boucher for his team leading seventh goal. What a start for Plekanec who had issues not only scoring but issues with chemistry with his long line of linemates last season. Assists on the play went to Bourque (5) and Gionta (4). Now armed with a two goal lead the Habs were in familiar territory which has not always been a positive thing for them in the third period. Tonight however was a different story with Montreal forcing the Flyers to play their game and get away from their own game plan. The Flyers looked disorganized and frustrated when facing a two goal deficit which played right into Montreal’s favour and lightened the load as the third period wore on.
The Habs would put the exclamation mark on tonight’s game with Rene Bourque being credited with his fifth goal of the season after it was declared he was hauled down by Jakub Voracek while skating hard to an open net. Video replay would show both players getting tangled up together with Voracek receiving an elbow while crashing to the ice. This play would not have been possible without the wise pass from Brian Gionta along the boards to spring Bourque. Josh Gorges would also notch an assist on the play. Just another dagger through the heart of the Philadephia Flyers who have now lost two straight and sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.
Overall, a solid performance from Petr Budaj and not only preserving the lead but building on it displayed the kind of heart and emotion this team needs moving forward. Montreal was able to capitalize on a tired Flyers squad who had played last night while the Habs were a well rested and quite prepared group. The only possible setback are potential injuries to Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. As of now it has been reported that both have suffered upper body injuries and more will be known tomorrow morning. One can only hope these injuries are not serious and that they will not miss any significant time. A total of four players had a multi-point effort tonight (Pacioretty, Gallagher, Gionta, Bourque) while Gallagher’s +2 tonight now moves him into a tie with Alex Galchenyuk for the team lead in +/- with a +7. It appears the decision to keep these guys up with the big club was simply genius and boy have they done their part and then some for this club. Up next for the Habs are the Carolina Hurricanes winners of the three straight and will look to stall Montreal’s current three game winning streak. I should also mention the Habs are undefeated against non-divisional teams so far this season with a record of 7-0 and I will leave you with that to take what you will.
GO HABS GO