I have two words for you: utter domination.
That is what last night's game amounted to. In an interesting turn of fate, the Montreal Canadiens turned the script on its head and gave the Flyers a little taste of their own medicine.
Things didn't start off well, however, as the Canadiens again took an early penalty—Ryan O'Byrne for delay of game 27 seconds in. The difference last night, was that the Habs came to play.
After killing off the Flyers power play the Habs put the pedal to the metal and did not let off until the final buzzer.
The Canadiens were relentless with their forecheck as they pressured the Flyers defenders and used their speed to draw penalties and win foot races.
The result was that the Habs outshot the Flyers 38-26, beat them in the faceoff circle 34-29, and shut down their power play while scoring one of their own.
As good as Flyers goalie Michael Leighton had been over the first two games, you got the impression that once the Canadiens scored it would open the floodgates.
Well, that is exactly what happened last night as they were constantly swarming his net, bumping into him, screening him, and otherwise doing all the right things in order to score.
The Habs' goals were scored by Michael Cammalleri (13th), Tom Pyatt (second), Dominic Moore (fourth), Brian Gionta (eighth), and Marc-Andre Bergeron (second). The Flyers lone goal was scored by Simon Gagne—this seventh of the playoffs and over the last seven games.
Final score: Habs 5 - Flyers 1. The Flyers lead the series 2-1.
1. The Flyers were Leightoned by Jaroslav Halak!
Hehe. Not really, but I couldn't resist that headline. Last night, Halak returned to the form that saw him play a starring role in defeating the Penguins and Capitals.
While the Canadiens controlled almost the entire 60 minutes, there were a few minutes early when the game was tied at zero and when the Habs were leading by one, where Halak came up with huge saves.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: An elite goaltender makes keys saves at key times, and Halak did that last night.
Interesting note: Yesterday's game was the first time the Canadiens have won a game in the playoffs when outshooting their opponents—shots were 38-26.
2. P.K. Subban and Roman Hamrlik were superlative.
Both players played arguably their best games of the playoffs and certainly their best game as a tandem.
Earning the game's first star, Hamrlik was a juggernaut on the blueline last night. He made excellent defensive plays, jumped up into the rush, played a strong physical game, and even fought with Scott Hartnell.
Seeing 23:06 of ice time, Hamrlik has two assists, a plus-4 rating, three shots on goal, and 3 blocked shots.
His partner, Subban, was equally effective playing 18:11 and getting three assists, a plus-3 rating, and one shot on goal.
Together, this tandem was a key offensive catalyst for the Habs and they will have to continue to do so, given the absence of Markov, if that Habs want to continue to have success.
3. Ode to the muckers.
As has often been the case this playoff and regular season, when the Canadiens get goals from their bottom six forwards they win the game.
Last night, the Habs third line of Maxim Lapierre, Moore, and Pyatt were the most effective all night long.
Playing between 11 and 15 minutes each, this line caused problems for the Flyers defenders every time they were on the ice.
They used their speed and tenacious forecheck to pressure the Flyers' defenders leading to turnovers and scoring chances.
Not only did this line build a lot of momentum for the Habs, but they also contributed on the scoreboard with Pyatt scoring the second goal of the game as he drove to the net—the puck went in off of his leg—and Moore scoring half way through the second to make it 3-0.
Maxim Lapierre too, was all over the ice and was effective because he was moving his feet. When he decides to skate instead of just yapping, he becomes a force to be reckoned with.
4. The Habs' best players were their best players
As has become habitual for this team, Michael Cammalleri got the party started last night by scoring, from his knees, at 7:05 of the first period.
Not only did he score his league leading 13th of the playoffs, but he was all over the ice all night long.
From the drop of the puck, you could see the determination on his face and in his play as he went to the net and took the abuse necessary to get scoring chances.
And Cammy was not alone in that department as Brian Gionta scored his eighth of the playoffs early in the third to make it 4-0 Habs. The work of the two Habs offensive stalwarts seemed to trickle down the lineup.
Even Benoit Pouliot—reinserted into the lineup after being a healthy scratch last game—was going to the net, hitting people, and playing an aggressive game.
Andrei Kostitsyn too went shoulder to shoulder with Daniel Carcillo, and Carcillo is the one who found himself on the ground.
That kind of enthusiasm and will to win is contagious and Cammalleri, knowing how badly the Habs needed to score, lead the charge.
Look Out Ahead!
I don't care how much opposing players say that they are not affected by the raucous Bell Center crowd, because the Habs' seventh man makes a difference.
After the Pittsburgh series, Kris Letang said that when playing in the Bell Center the noise of the crowd makes you feel like the Habs are coming at your that much faster, or that if you get scored on that things are that much worse than they really are.
That effect was apparent last night as the Flyers looked confused and disorganized for long stretches of the game.
I expect the Canadiens to come out just as strong in Game Four tomorrow afternoon as they did last night. The difference is that I expect a much better effort out of the Flyers players.
They know they didn't play well and they know that they have a great opportunity to go home with a 3-1 series lead.
If the playoffs, so far, has taught us one thing it is that both of these teams play their best when their backs are against the wall. As such, I fully expect the same, winning effort from the Canadiens in Game Four.
There is little turnaround time as the teams are playing a Saturday afternoon matinee.
Afternoon games are always interesting because they break the players' regular routines and you never know how that will affect them.
The good thing is that we won't have to wait long to find out in a series that I think is just getting starting.
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