The Flyers were tied with the Canadiens for the 6th / 7th spots in the East. The winner of this game gained a much needed two point cushion over the other four teams fighting for the last three spots. Having lost four out the last five coming in, the Flyers were desperate for every point they could get.
Unfortunately for them, desperation doesn’t mean much in the face of a stonewall goaltender. Jaroslav Halak showed why he has come through as the go-to starter for this Montreal team.
Having scored in the last game for his 1st in fourteen games, James van Riemsdyk was put on the top line along with Mike Richards and playmaker Claude Giroux, who JVR has been growing closer to as the seasons gone on, being roommates on most road trips.
The New Jersey native ended up with a team leading six shots and was second only to Mike Richards in ice time for forwards. His confidence was high and he clearly had the hot hand, even managing to bat the puck out of the air and in, though it was too high and the goal was disallowed.
The Canadiens scored the first and only goal of the night halfway through the first period as Andre Kostitsyn outworked Richards and Matt Carle behind the Flyers’ goal before throwing it out front for a Tomas Plekanec one timer. This was the only first period goal the Flyers gave up in the entire season series against the Habs.
The second half of the game was defined by the Flyers’ domination of play, and by Halak’s domination of his net. From about the 7:00 mark of the second on to the end of the third, the Flyers outshot the Canadiens 24-4. This included breakaways, deflections, jamming at rebounds, and every other move imaginable. But Halak had the answers to everything.
Ultimately unable to crack the scoreboard, the Flyers failed to pick up a single point in this loss to split the season series. They now sit alone in 8th place, with the Bruins holding a game in hand in 7th, and the Canadiens in sole possession of the 6th seed.
The New York Rangers sit two points behind the Flyers with a game in hand and the last two games of the season being a home and home series between these Atlantic Division rivals. Those two games will likely decide whether the Flyers play through April or hit the golf courses early.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Jaroslav Halak: An obvious first star, Halak made 35 saves in this shutout win that kept him busy right up until the end.
James van Riemsdyk: Missing top scorer Jeff Carter and another forward in the suspended Dan Carcillo, it was time for players like JVR to step up. And step up he did. Unfortunately, none of his six shots made it through, despite his best efforts.
Brian Boucher: Boucher was pulled after a disturbing performance in the Flyers’ last game against the New York Islanders, but he stepped up last night and stopped the shots he had to. It was nothing spectacular, but he kept out 22 of 23 to keep his team in it all the way.