Jan 22, 2010, 8:59 PM EDT
There was a lot of room for improvement for the Flyers after the first 20 minutes of play tonight, and man if they didn’t make up every inch of it over the next 40. They ended their goal-less streak against Carey Price this season, stayed hungry once they broke through, and a young gun finally put one in the goal column.
The Canadiens owned the ice in the first, outshooting the Flyers, scoring twice, and turning aside what little shots were put on Price. Before 30 seconds had ticked off, they had three shots and the Flyers had taken a penalty. It was a terrible start, and it would get a lot worse before it got better, but the team showed a lot of character in a come from behind 3-2 victory. Highlights and video below.
Despite the war of words following a rough first matchup between the two sides last week, there were no physical fireworks early on, and the Flyers came out looking surprisingly flat. Even if there wasn’t going to be blood early, we at least expected some fire. Maxim Lapierre, the Hab who Scott Hartnell said choked him in a scrum last game, found a creative way to be a pest in this one—scoring a pair of demoralizingly early goals. The first was a long, uncontested shot with no screen—about as bad as a goal could look.
Brian Boucher said after the game that he was fooled on the shot, which came all the way from the blue line and just seemed to catch him completely off guard.
Boosh let up another one four minutes later, this one deflecting off of Andrej Meszaros' stick, and the energy just completely left the building. The pair of goals by the Canadiens had Boucher looking very beatable, and masked the fact that he was otherwise having a very good first period. In his postgame comments, Peter Laviolette said it could have easily been 4-0 had it not been for Boucher. It certainly looked like it might be headed that way when the Flyers went into the locker room.
The Flyers got off to a better start in the second, with the Briere-Leino-Hartnell line putting together an impressive shift and getting some actual chances on Carey Price. They outshot the Canadiens by a 21-5 count in the period, but a lot of the early shots came from fairly far out and didn’t threaten to do anything but solidify Price’s grip on his shutout streak over the Flyers. But they kept the shots coming, and finally, the Briere line was able to solve Price. Danny fed it across to Leino, who one-timed a perfect shot past Price. Scott Hartnell tapped it in again, not so much to be an ass (although we could see him doing that too) as to just make sure they got on the board against a goalie that had been owning them for a game and a half.
For a moment after that, there was every opportunity for the Flyers to lose that momentum. Scott Gomez goaded Braydon Coburn into a penalty, holding his stick until Coburn gave him a shot to the chops. As is often the case, only the second infraction drew a call. But the Flyers didn’t lose their energy, nor let up in the offensive zone.
The third period was more of the same. High-energy shifts with more waves of shots on goal. Price was left hung out to dry as the skaters in front of him faded. Less than two minutes into third, Claude Giroux’s line potted the equalizer. Darroll Powe was all over the ice, and he found Giroux with an angle that G doesn’t miss from. “That’s why I like playing with Darroll," Giroux said after the game. "He wins every battle. He works hard. He is going to give you everything he has, especially today, he was great too.” That's already #12 for Giroux, who by the way grew up a huge Canadiens fan.
Hard to imagine after the start of this game that it would be tied in the third, with the Canadiens unable to crack Boucher again after the first intermission, but it says all we need to know about this year’s Flyers compared to previous seasons. They do not give up.
The feel-good story of the night came on the goal that would prove to be the game-winner. Benched at one point for his lack of productivity this season, James van Riemsdyk has been playing his ass off lately and drawing praise from his coach. Tonight, he finally scored his first goal of the season, and it couldn’t have been bigger.
The ear-to-ear grin didn’t leave his face until the press had cleared the locker room, where he credited his teammates for setting him up so nicely. The video is worth re-watching if you missed what led to the goal—Richards and Coburn made some great passes, and for the third time in the game, the Flyers scored because of clean puck movement and finding an open man with a wide angle. That's what it takes to beat a guy like Price when he's playing as well as he has been this season, and after peppering him with some weak shots to tenderize the Habs defense, they finally started to get some open looks. And it's huge that the guy who put the Flyers ahead was the Flyer most in need of hearing that horn blast because of something that came off his stick.
“Sometimes you forget how great it feels to score a goal,” JVR said of his first goal of the season.
You know what else feels great? Seeing the Flyers in first place overall in the NHL standings.
They really battled tonight and shook off a terrible first period, beating a quality opponent and a goalie who is playing at the top of his game. It’s always fun to see them come out and smoke someone for 60 minutes, but it’s just as encouraging to see how willing they were to step it up and dig out from an early hole, come back to take a lead, and then lock it up.
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