Alex Kovalev is congratulated by teammates for his first-period goal, his 27th of the season.
Len Redkoles, NHLI via Getty Images
Who needs the Boston Bruins when the Canadiens have the Philadelphia Flyers to kick around?
Twenty-four hours after blanking the erstwhile Broad Street Bullies 1-0 at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens skated to a 5-3 victory at the Wachovia Centre tonight to complete a four-game season sweep of the Flyers and hand the slumping home team their seventh consecutive loss.
And don’t look now, but the Canadiens, who won their third straight and 19th road game of the season, have jumped into a tie with Ottawa atop the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, both teams with 73 points though the Senators hold a game in hand.
Montreal goalie Carey Price made 34 saves to earn his third victory in as many starts since last Wednesday and 12th win this season. Price yielded just four goals to Philadelphia in his three wins over them this season.
Alex Kovalev had a goal and two assists in a game that had many rough edges and featured some superb penalty killing by the Canadiens.
The Habs managed 33 shots on Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki, compared to the Flyers’ 37 on Price.
Kovalev, with his 27th of the season, and Philadelphia’s Mike Richards exchanged first-period goals, Kovalev’s coming first at 6:18 on a pretty, seeing-eye pass from behind the net off the stick of linemate Tomas Plekanec.
Richards’s goal, scored shorthanded, snapped Price’s goalless streak at 112:26, a span stretching back to the first period of Wednesday’s game in Florida against the Panthers.
Defenceman Francis Bouillon, in what was probably his best game in a Canadiens uniform, then put the Habs back on top with 1.2 seconds to play in the first on an end-to-end rush (that’s not a typo), finally whipping a shot past Niittymaki for his first of the season.
Bouillon’s goal followed the confusion of a vicious check laid on Sergei Kostitsyn in the corner to the left of Price, the ensuing jousting match involving Montreal’s Josh Gorges and the Flyers’ Jim Vandermeer, and it came one day short of the first anniversary of Bouillon’s most recent goal.
But Bouillon’s goal didn’t break the Flyers’ back, as a goal late in a period often does. On their first rush of the second, Philadelphia’s Braydon Coburn shot toward the Montreal goal, the puck deflecting off defenceman Mike Komisarek’s stick and floating like a knuckleball over Price’s shoulder at 34 seconds.
Michael Ryder responded, however, emerging from the press box tonight to put Montreal back in front at 2:15 with his ninth, cashing a rebound after a bit of scrambly action around Niittymaki.
Saku Koivu made it 4-2 at 10:10 on a 5-on-3 Montreal advantage, taking a pass from Andrei Markov to beat a sprawling Niittymaki along the ice for his 11th. Kovalev also assisted, his third point of the night, having also assisted on Ryder’s goal.
Maxim Lapierre iced the victory into an empty Philadelphia net at 18:36, his fourth of the season, before Riley Cote scored at 19:41 to round out the scoring.
The Canadiens improved their season record to 32-19-9 while Philadelphia fell to 30-24-5.
The Habs return home for three Bell Centre games this week – they face the New York Rangers on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, when Bob Gainey’s No. 23 will be retired in a pre-game ceremony.