Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet stones Flyers’ Scott Hartnell on this scoring attempt.
Dave Sandford, Getty Images
Canadiens’ Mike Komisarek tangles with Hartnell during first-period action. Komisarek was a physical presence all night long for Montreal.
Christinne Muschi, Reuters
The Philadelphia Flyers weren’t so bad after all. Or, maybe the Canadiens were simply that good.
The Habs scored twice at even strength, twice on their league-leading power play and once more while shorthanded, outshooting the Flyers 41-19 to defeat their visitors 5-2 before the usual 21,273-fan sellout at the Bell Centre.
Montreal improved their record to 7-2-3, while the Atlanta Division-leading Flyers, playing their fourth in an eight-game road trip, dropped to 7-4-0.
Christopher Higgins pounced on a rebound off a Mark Streit slap shot at 16:42 of the third period, the Canadiens enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage, to put the Habs up 5-1.
Montreal captain Saku Koivu had made as a pretty a play as you’re liable to see nearing the midway mark of the third period to put the Habs up 4-1 and put the game out of reach. Koivu broke free of a Flyer check in Montreal ice before sprinting down the rink to precisely feed Guillaume Latendresse, who converted a tip-in at goalie Martin Biron’s goal crease at 8:21 for his second goal of the season.
The Flyers were within inches of making this one a lot closer, hitting three goalposts behind Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet.
Koivu had put the Canadiens on the board at 8:53, scoring his fourth of the season on a delayed penalty, drilling a 20-foot short-side wrist shot past Biron from the faceoff circle on a pass out from along the boards by defenceman Roman Hamrlik.
The Flyers tied it up at 16:50 on a power-play goal credited to Mike Richards, though it was in fact scored by Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov. Daniel Brière, booed lustily most every time he touched the puck, fed a clever behind-the-back pass to Richards, whose net-directed shot glanced past Huet when it deflected off Markov’s skate. Hamrlk was serving a dubious cross-checking penalty at the time.
The Canadiens held a wide edge in the first-period play, if solely judged by shots on goal – the Habs were 15-6 up on the Flyers in that category.
Alex Kovalev scored Montreal’s NHL-best 20th power play goal at 7:29 of the second period, the Russian’s fourth goal in his past five games and seventh of the season, whipping in a wrist shot from the circle with Brière serving a penalty for an infraction he never committed.
To the crowd’s delight, Brière was tagged for tripping Christopher Higgins, who, as made clear by television replays, fell on his own in Philly ice, Brière’s stick was nowhere near the flashy Flyer’s skates.
Montreal’s Tom Kostopoulos scored a lovely shorthanded goal with Hamrlik in the box at 11:38. Kostopoulos’s first as a Canadien put Montreal up 3-1 when he stripped the puck off Richards at the Montreal blue line and broke out on a 3-on-1 with Markov and Kyle Chipchura. Kostopoulos passed back to Markov and took a return pass to rip home a one-timer.
Then Hamrlik burst out of the box and charged in on Biron, but Flyers’ Jason Smith hauled him down to give the Canadiens defenceman a penalty shot. Hamrlik didn’t come close at 13:12, his deked backhand easily blocked by Biron.
Montreal outshot the Flyers 12-7 in the second period for a 27-13 edge.
There was a scary moment in the final minutes when Flyers’ Richards drilled Kovalev with an elbow, almost touching off a multi-player brawl. Kovalev appeared to be not badly hurt back on the bench, the ensuing dance giving the Habs their 5-on-3 advantage.
Flyers’ Scottie Upshall finished the game’s scoring with a power-play goal, 27 seconds left on the clock.
The Canadiens return to practice today to prepare for Saturday’s Bell Centre game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That will be the club’s third contest in a four-game homestand, the last coming on Monday when the Buffalo Sabres visit.
Canadiens captain Saku Koivu (left) celebrates his first-period goal with defenceman Patrice Brisebois.
Christinne Muschi, Reuters