After last Tuesday’s antics between the Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens, many expected the bad blood to boil over to Monday night’s contest. But as these things usually play out – when words are exchanged in the media following some on-ice confrontation – the players involved got their emotions out before the puck dropped, and for sixty minutes, it was nothing but hockey.
Montreal took hold of a first period lead with a pair of goals, and the Flyers spent the next two periods getting it back, finishing off with two in the third to take the game 3-2.
For the first period, things went the Canadiens’ way as they out worked, out shot, and out scored the Flyers. Maxim Lapierre nearly put one home on one of the earliest chances of the night, as his back door chance nearly snuck past Brian Boucher.
It was a sign of things to come, with Lapierre picking up both Canadiens’ goals. Despite his quality chance earlier, his goals were off some of the least likely shots of the game – a dinky wrist shot from the blue line and a shot from the slot that tipped off a defender and through Boucher’s legs.
“The first goal fooled me a little bit. The second one was a bad break. [Andrej Meszaros] tipped it with his stick,” said Boucher on his first period luck.
Boucher remained confident and pleased with his play – just as he should, as the saves he did make were often stellar ones – and he predicted the Flyers’ later success.
“I thought I made some really good saves. I wasn’t discouraged at all and I had the sense if we could get the puck in their end and get some shots we’d get back in the game; and that’s what we did in the second period.”
The second period was all Flyers. Instead of sitting back, letting Montreal dictate play, they took the game to them.
“We started to work harder, we were more aggressive, and we were more determined,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “It was kind of a sleepy first period for us and I thought that, to the credit of the players, they went out there and played just a terrific 40 minutes.”
Outshooting the Canadiens 21-5, with what seemed like sure goals coming one after another as they swarmed and scrambled around Carey Price’s crease. All that came of it, though, was a Ville Leino shot off the rush that beat Price for the first time in 68 shots.
But the Flyers weren’t done, and came out in the third period with an early goal by Claude Giroux, who put in a rebound off a shot from the point as his linemates of Jeff Carter and Darroll Powe worked a strong forecheck.
Later that period, as Braydon Coburn and James van Riemsdyk out worked the Canadiens defenders along the boards before Coburn sent a pass out front to James van Riemsdyk. JVR beat Price top shelf for his much coveted first goal of the year.
“Sometimes you forget how great it feels to score a goal. I felt great,” van Riemsdyk said after the game. “I just got to keep this roll going.” It wasn’t the goal-scorer himself, however, that celebrated this first of the year the most, though.
Claude Giroux said he thought “every guy on the bench was [happier] than him.”
After his solid play against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, working on the fourth line, JVR earned a spot alongside Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl, a pairing with which he’s generated some chemistry.
The Flyers held on in the late-game, nearly cashed in on a Montreal empty net, and finished off their 3-2 come-from-behind victory with the aggressive defense that defines this team.
This victory puts them atop the NHL – technically tied with the Washington Capitals in points, but leading in the goal differential tie breaker.
KEYS TO THE GAME
James van Riemsdyk: “Reemer” earned his spot on the roster through the same hard work that got him a goal, fighting along the boards as per his style and cashing in with a goal. For a young player like van Riemsdyk, what matters most is confidence. If he gets on a roll and starts earning points, more will come.
Brian Boucher: With his second consecutive start and his second consecutive win, Boucher has earned more confidence from his team and coach, which should get him some more games, get him on a roll, and get everyone more wins. And as a nice bonus, a winning Boucher means more rest for the young Bobrovsky, whose workload may be one of the hardest amongst NHL goalies – given his youth and experience.
Life is good as a Flyers fan, when the biggest problem they face is which of the three potential starting goaltenders (with Michael Leighton soon to return) should play.