By JAY BOEHMER
Staff Writer — firstname.lastname@example.org
The Flyers knew they had to adjust following their Game 2 win at home. The first two wins of the series had come easily, but everyone knew that it wasn’t enough. The series wasn’t going to be just handed to them.
Laviolette and his team were saying the right words, but no one on the ice seemed to take them to heart. The Flyers came out flat and failed to show any signs of life until the game had already slipped away.
It started with a generous bounce for the Canadiens as a point shot was deflected behind the net, off the end boards, and back out front on the other side where Mike Cammalleri, the playoff’s leading goal scorer, put it past Michael Leighton for the Habs’ first goal of the series.
As the first period was winding down, the Canadiens were getting fired up. They came at the Flyers in waves, with the orange and the black barely able to weather each storm. Ultimately, as Chris Pronger attempted a breakout, he fumbled the puck into the slot and onto the stick of Dominic Moore. Moore put a shot past Leighton that rang off the post before deflecting off the leg of a crashing Tom Pyatt and in.
In the second period, the Canadiens finally looked like the team that had fought past the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins to get here. They came fast, hard and physical against the Flyers, who may have underestimated them due to their small stature.
Philadelphia was back on its heels throughout the second, and barely survived with only giving up one more goal, as a disrupted offensive zone entry landed on the stick of Dominic Moore for a shot that beat Leighton.
One more intermission wasn’t enough for the Flyers, as Montreal jumped on them with another goal soon into the final period. A puck was flipped high into the air and over the head of defender Matt Carle, who mistimed his jump and left Brian Gionta loose on a breakaway. Gionta slid the puck under the pad of Leighton for a 4-0 lead.
The Flyers finally woke up, albeit too late.
Simon Gagne took charge with a bit of a lucky bounce off his turnaround shot from the high slot, as the puck bounced under a defenseman, off the ice, and over the pad of Halak to get the Flyers on the board and breathe life into their bench.
Philadelphia came flying at the Canadiens for the rest of the third, generating a good number of scoring chances. Unfortunately, none of them found the back of the net, and the Flyers were left trailing.
They may have found another reason to get back at Montreal in their next meeting, as the final minutes saw tensions start to boil over. Scott Hartnell dropped the gloves against Roman Hamrlik, and Danny Briere even threw a couple of quick punches of his own. Flyers dangler Claude Giroux took some abuse of his own earlier in the evening on a blatant high stick that was overlooked by the refs and left him with damaged teeth and a bleeding mouth.
The scrums resulted in a series of Flyers penalty kills and another Canadiens goal, their first on the power play, off a 5-on-3 one timer by Marc-Andre Bergeron.
With a little more fire under their feet and as good a wake up call as the NHL playoffs will afford them, the Flyers have every reason to come back with a strong rebound game Saturday in Montreal’s Bell Centre.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Mike Cammalleri: With only one out of his team’s five goals, Cammalleri wasn’t the most productive Canadien, but it’s appropriate that their most reliable goal scorer was the player to get the night’s (and, for Montreal, the series’) opening goal.
Dominic Moore: Not a prolific scorer by any means (with only three points coming into the night), Moore isn’t the player his teammates look to for leadership in that department. But his nagging play, buzzing around the Flyers’ net, left him with a goal and an assist.
Home Ice Advantage: These two teams, with fans known for their disruptive nature, get a clear boost in front of the home town crowd. So far the home team has outscored their opponent 14-1 in this series. Should these Eastern Conference Finals drag out, it may very well come down to the Flyers having the extra game at home.