Assistant Sports Editor Rob Riches obtained a press pass to the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens game on Saturday, March 24, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. This is his game recap.
The victory earned the Flyers a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and will be their 16th appearance in the last 17 seasons. They are the fourth team to clinch a playoff berth this season, behind the St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as the third Atlantic Division team to earn a berth.
“It’s been a really competitive year within our division, we haven’t really talked about it much,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “The only thing that we’ve addressed in the room is the two points that are at stake each game.”
Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen started the scoring at the 11:07 mark of the first period, off of a slap-shot from the blue line. Forward Claude Giroux was credited with the lone assist on Timonen’s fourth goal of the season, which came on a power play after Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec was penalized for slashing.
Three minutes and 44 seconds after the second period started, Plekanec got the Canadiens on the board with a breakaway goal, his 15th of the season, to tie the game at one. Forward Lars Eller and defenseman Alexei Emelinwere credited with assists on the goal.
Four minutes and 13 seconds after Plekanec’s goal, Flyers forward Danny Briere broke the tie with his 15th goal of the season, courtesy of defenseman Matt Carle and forward Matt Read. The goal came off of another power play, the second power play goal of the night, as Emelin was sent to the penalty box moments earlier for an interference penalty.
At the 17:38 minute mark of the 2nd, Briere scored yet another power play goal, courtesy of forward Jaromir Jagr and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. It was Briere’s second of the night and 16th on the season as well as the third power play goal of the night for the Flyers after Canadiens forward Erik Cole took a high-sticking penalty. The second period then ended with a 3-1 Flyers lead.
Early on in the third period, Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges and Flyers defenseman Pavel Kubina dropped the gloves and fought. Kubina hit Gorges with a flurry of right hands before linesmen intervened and sent both men to the penalty box with five-minute fighting majors.
At the 11:06 mark of the third, a scrum in the corner behind Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj was heavily penalized. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was assessed a two-minute hooking minor, a two-minute slashing minor (served by Briere) and a 10-minute misconduct penalty. Canadiens forward Ryan White took a two-minute roughing penalty and forward Mike Blunden took a 10-minute misconduct.
Moments later, Bryzgalov took a two-minute tripping penalty, which Giroux served for him. After Laviolette called a timeout, the Canadiens were facing a 5-on-3 advantage for a minute and 21 seconds. However, they were not able to capitalize on the two-man advantage.
With just over two minutes to play, Read scored his 21st goal of the season, driving the final nail to the Canadiens’ coffin. Fellow rookie forward Sean Couturier was credited with the assist. One minute and 53 seconds later, the horn sounded, sending the Flyers fans home happy with a critical win on Fan Appreciation Night.
Bryzgalov recorded 23 saves on 24 shots faced, while Budaj made 29 saves on 33 shots.
A big stat coming into the game was that the Flyers scored a paltry two goals on their last 20 power play attempts. However, they scored 3 goals on 5 attempts against the Canadiens.
“The power play’s gonna be up and down, every team’s gonna have some down,” Giroux said.
With the regular season getting ready to come to a close, the upcoming playoffs are the main focus for the Flyers, as they seek their first Stanley Cup since 1975.
“It’s important for us to try and come into the playoffs on an upswing,” Briere said.