History was made at what might have been the last game at the Bell Centre this season.
Your Montreal Canadiens were shut out for the third time in this series.
In the glorious franchise’s 100 years, that has never happened in the playoffs.
The Canadiens have racked up three shutouts, says HIO resident historian David Stubbs. They did it to Chicago in 1965.
But they’ve never been blanked three times.
And Michael F. Leighton – career minor leaguer – has a chance to make it four.
How often does goaltender get a shutout without being named one of the game’s three stars?
It happened to Michael F. today, and his snub is indicative of the Canadiens anemic attack.
They managed a grand total of 17 shots on goal – five by dangerous sniper Maxim Lapierre.
Mike Cammalleri, the leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, had one shot. He had another four blocked by a stifling Philadelphia defence that had 27 blocks by a dozen players – including six by Matt Carle.
This was a pretty good hockey game for 11 minutes.
But from the time Marc-André Bergeron went off for holding in the first period, the Canadiens seemed to lose the energy with which they’d started the game.
Philadelphia dominated the last half of the first period and absolutely owned the second.
The Canadiens were outshot 13-1 in the middle period.
How do you manage one miserable shot in your own barn?
After the game, Scott Gomez talked about flow – and lack of same.
The Canadiens were never able to generate the sustained pressure, line change after line change, we saw in Game 3.
Maybe Thursday night was an aberration. The Canadiens showed up, the Flyers didn’t and everyone in Montreal started smelling the Cup again.
That intoxicating perfume wasn’t wafting through too many nostrils today.
By the time the final siren sounded, the Bell Centre was half empty. And long before that, the usual 21,273 had settled into somnambulance, turning the NHL’s most raucous rink into a mausoleum.
Credit the fans with sophistication and keen awareness of what they were watching. The Flyers were dominant for 50 minutes, and people who understand hockey could smell something that wasn’t the Cup.
The players said all the predictable things about failure to execute, inefficient puck management, etc.
Peter Laviolette, in assessing his team’s defensive effort, said “the neutral zone was really tight, which eliminates rush opportunities.”
Jacques Martin traced the Canadiens’ anemic attack to an inability to get the puck deep behind the Flyers’ not-overly-swift D, as had been the case in Game 3.
“We played in what you call a danger zone,” Martin said. “The blue lines are usually a danger zone. Your own blue line you’ve got to get the pucks out, and the offensive blue line you’ve got to get the puck in deep.”
Martin also lamented turnovers, two of which led to Philadelphia goals.
The first was a brilliant individual effort by Claude Giroux, who wheeled around Josh Gorges when the Canadiens Dman was hampered by a broken skate guard. Giroux continues to demonstrate why all trade talk this winter screeched to a halt when the team dangling a goaltender – Jaro Halak, Florida’s Tomas Vokoun – mentioned the can’t miss centre/RW.
Giroux is that good. And he’s young … and cheap for a while.
The second Philadelphia goal was off a misplay by P.K. Subban that turned into Chris Pronger’s soft lead pass to Ville Leino.
Subban has not been great in this series. The kid has played like what he is: a talented rookie bright with promise but prone to mistakes playing a position that requires experience.
So enough with the Bobby Orr comparisons, eh?
P.K. will be a very good player for a very long time, but right now he’s part of a depleted D corps that had a lot of trouble handling the puck and clearing the zone against a Philly forecheck that shifted into overdrive after MAB’s penalty.
What was dispiriting about the loss – apart from yet another goose egg – was the way the visitors crafted their W on speed, skill, defensive strategy and discipline.
The erstwhile Broad Street bullies didn’t play shorthanded until almost seven minutes into the third period, when Carle flipped a puck over the glass.
That’s how non-threatening the Canadiens were. One of the NHL’s most penalized teams didn’t have to hold, trip or interfere with anyone.
The Canadiens will have to be a lot better in Philadelphia.
Maybe Game 5 will offer what we haven’t seen through four games of this series: Both teams playing their best for 60 minutes.
You got the feeling today, however, that when the Flyers play their best, the Canadiens can’t get their game untracked.
Lest we forget, this team came back from 3-1 down against Washington.
But the Flyers aren’t the Capitals.
They play sounder two-way hockey than the run-and-gun regular season champs.
And Chris Pronger isn’t Mike Green.
After an off-night in Game 3 that had the punditocracy and fans speculating he was hurt and running out of gas, Pronger bounced back with 31:07 of ice time in which he controlled play like a symphony conductor, speeding the tempo up, slowing it down, moving the puck efficiently to Flyer forwards.
It’s what Nik Lidstrom does in Detroit and Andrei Markov, at his best, does for the Canadiens.
Pronger takes the temperature of a game and responds accordingly.
On a warm afternoon in Montreal, he was a cool customer.