Habs Come Back, Win 5-4 vs Flyers

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Habs Come Back, Win 5-4 Vs Flyers

The Habs made a comeback Saturday night at the Bell Centre, winning against the Flyers in a 5-4 victory.

On a night that began with emotions already high – from shaking off the previous game’s terrible loss, to inviting young cancer survivors on the ice – the Habs did what every fan had been hoping they would: find a way to win the game-after-the-night-before.

They did, and it was a challenge.

Carey Price was tested; he let in 4 goals for the first time this season, but was stellar in nets as he faced 38 shots from the Flyers.

The rest of the team was more focused, definitely more energetic, and more determined than they had been in Columbus, and that translated to a win. Tomas Plekanec scored the winning goal, breaking his drought and bringing his whole team to their feet in celebration.

On one hand, it was a needed victory. Still, it was not an easy win, and they pulled it off with a one-goal lead.

Here’s how it played out.

First Period: Shots 9-8 Philadelphia

Goals:

  • Andrei Markov (unassisted) 1:06; Greg Pateryn (Paul Byron, Andrew Shaw), 9:09
  • Chris VandeVelde (unassisted); 4:32; Shayne Gotisbehere (Jakub Voracek, Michael Del Zotto), 8:30

The first period began with an energetic Habs team, and it paid off just a minute later when Andrei Markov – unassisted – scored his first of the season.

The goal looked like it might have been tipped in by David Desharnais, but replays revealed that it was deflected off a Flyers defenseman.

Meanwhile, the Flyers used their coach’s challenge to review the goal, saying it was goaltender interference. The goal stood, and the Habs were at 1-0.

Not even 5 minutes into the period, right off the face-off, the Flyers’ Chris VandeVelde beat Price, and tied the score.

The Flyers went ahead with a 2nd goal, when Shayne Gotisbehere, along with very persistent teammates, coupled with a disorganized Habs group, got the 2nd goal for Philadelphia.

Just 40 seconds later, Greg Pateryn got the equalizer. When Paul Byron and Andrew Shaw got tangled with a few Flyers players in Philadelphia’s zone, Byron managed to pass the puck back to the point, where Pateryn took a shot and found the back of the net.

The rest of the period saw both teams battling to best each other, but despite what looked like a very disorganized defense corps, the Habs held on and the game went into first intermission tied.

Second Period: Shots 15-3 Philadelphia

Alex Galchenyuk (Alexander Radulov, Andrei Markov), 18:38

With the Habs being outshot 5-1, it’s truly miraculous the score wasn’t higher this period. Neither team scored, and the Flyers dominated with the puck.

Carey Price continued to be stellar. At 9 minutes into the second period, he made this incredible glove save on Jakub Voracek:

This is but one of the many noteworthy saves Price made all night.

Finally, with almost 90 seconds left till the end of the period, Alex Galchenyuk was perfect in his placement and his shot, and beat the Flyers goaltender with a go-ahead.

This goal was one that could have been scored at least twice this game already. Two Habs players in front, Michael Neuvirth defending on one side, and leaving the other side of the net empty. Unfortunately, though the set-up had occurred in the first period as well, this was the only goal that went in.

Here’s what it looked like:

The Habs went into second intermission with a one-goal lead. This proved to be the boost they needed.

Third Period: Shots 14-6 Philadelphia

Goals:

  • Phillip Danault (Torrey Mitchell), 3:52; Tomas Plekanec (SHG; Max Pacioretty), 10:57
  • Claude Giroux (PPG; Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gotisbehere), 9:16; Travis Konecny (PPG; Ivan Provorov, Sean Couturier), 16:16

Almost 4 minutes in, Montreal’s fourth line struck hard. When Neuvirth tried to clear the puck behind the net, Torrey Mitchell blocked his attempt. Passing it around to Phillip Danault, the Habs went 2 up on the Flyers.

But penalties struck, and Andrew Shaw was called for high-sticking, dealt a double minor at 8:31 of the period, allowing Claude Giroux to score and bring it to 4-3. There were still 2 minutes of the power play remaining, when the Habs broke out of their zone.

Max Pacioretty got his stick on the puck and sent it out of the zone. Tomas Plekanec went chasing after it, and even though it was rolling, he took the shot, and beat Neuvirth with a short-handed goal.

 

From there, the Flyers were desperate to catch up; they’d been strong all evening.

On yet another call against the Habs, the Flyers pulled to within 1 goal, getting a power-play goal with 20 seconds left to the man-advantage.

The Habs got a power play with 2-1/2 minutes left, but failed to score on it; they held off the Flyers when Neuvirth was pulled, and the game ended with the Habs victorious at 5-4.

Some Thoughts:

The back-and-forth scoring kept them on the edge throughout the 60 minutes, and without Price’s big saves, they might not have found themselves on the winning side of things.

But a win is a win, and while it doesn’t erase the memory of a 10-0 loss, it certainly softens it.

  • Shots on goal were 38-17. That’s just not going to fly this season. The game ended with a one-goal lead, and the Habs were lucky it wasn’t another blowout, with that kind of push from their opponents. They have to find a way to generate shots, because that will help them to start scoring again.
  • There has been much talk of this being the first time this season that Carey Price has allowed more than 3 goals in one game. While statistics have their place, and these kinds of “firsts” are noted, I wouldn’t dwell on them. Price is fallible – though there are many moments in which that is extremely hard to believe – and the team has its own burdens to shoulder.
  • Defense was lacking this game, and though two of the 5 goals were scored by defensemen, it’s crucial that they step up and clear the puck, block the shots, and generally do what defensemen do. In his post-game interview, Greg Pateryn mentioned that producing from the back end is something they’re training to do, but we also need to see better support in front of Price and Al Montoya.
  • Discipline is also a problem. The Habs gave up 2 power-play goals Saturday night, and they have to stay out of the box. We can’t blame the refs (despite some questionable calls and non-calls on Philadelphia); we have to look at the problem, and Friday’s game coupled with Saturday’s yielded 6 power-play goals against the Habs. That has to change – along with their penalty kill getting back to its effectiveness.
  • There is one “first” that bears celebrating: Tomas Plekanec’s first goal of the season. This was a case of “scoring when it’s most needed”, and Pleky did just that. He’s been known for his short-handed scoring skills before, and this was perfect timing. The fact that his goal was the winning goal is icing on the cake.

In the video above, you can see the bench celebrating Plekanec as he skated back to fist bump his teammates. You can also see the still-penalized Andrew Shaw, banging on the ice with his stick, celebrating the goal too. That burden has been lifted from the unfairly criticized Plekanec’s shoulders now, but people need to understand that he hasn’t been idle.

In fact, Plekanec took a role this season that transcended scoring. He’s been a very effective shut-down player. He shut down the top players from many teams, including Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, and every player from the Cup champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (whom, you will remember, were shut out when they visited Montreal in October).

Plekanec hasn’t been visible but he hasn’t been lazy either. It’s just that fans measure a player’s worth in goals, and he hasn’t pleased them till now. But watch him in action – you might just see what he’s been tasked to do, and it’s an important role that he’s played.

  • The Habs opened up their evening with 6 children representing Leucan, an organization that helps kids recovering from cancer, and their families. Each child was waiting to be called, was paired with a Habs player to lead them onto the ice (Alexei Emelin, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber, and Carey Price), and stood, hand-in-hand, for the anthems. The looks on their faces were beautiful, but it was the tenderness shown to them by the players whose hands they held that put the lump in my throat.
Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

As the players were being named in the arena, coming onto the ice at the beginning of the game, we at home were treated to the beautiful sight of a cancer survivor in the dressing room, calling out the names of the players, as the Habs – almost ready to take the ice – applauded each one. Michel Therrien was visibly moved by this, as he stood next to her.

The Habs organization, along with the NHL, is part of Hockey Fights Cancer. Each team, in their own way, raises money, and awareness, and this was a part of that effort.

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

In his post-game interview, Tomas Plekanec said that it gave the team an extra boost to be better; inspiration comes from many places, and this was a demonstration of how it worked for the Canadiens in a needed comeback effort.

A win is a win. Time to look forward to improvements, great hockey, and – hopefully – more wins than not.

The Habs have a couple of days off, and will be hosting the Boston Bruins Tuesday evening. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.

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