With a 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens snapped their seven-game losing streak and, in the process, snapped the Flyers’ season-long three-game win streak.
The Flyers were lucky to be down just 1-0 after a lopsided first period. They lagged far behind in shots and face-offs won and had six times as many giveaways (12-2).
Despite also being outplayed to start the second, the Flyers tied it just over two minutes in via Max Willman. The Flyers completed a better-looking second period, although the execution was still lacking.
During a more evenly matched third, the Canadiens tied the game when Laurent Dauphin knocked in a rebound with just over five minutes to play. The Flyers outshot the Canadiens that period, but Dauphin’s goal pushed the game into overtime.
Forty-four seconds into the extra session, Ben Chiarot was called for hooking, giving the Flyers the man-advantage. Instead of ending the game, the power play ended with Chiarot getting out of the box and springing for a breakaway that Carter Hart saved.
Hart’s performance kept the scores tied after overtime, but in typical Flyers’ fashion, they lost in the shootout.
On a team that looked colder than the ice it skated on, Willman was the only one who came out with fire in the second period. On his first shift, he skated down with speed and shot one wide. His next shot was saved by Cayden Primeau, but he kept working in front of the net.
Even after mishandling a pass from James van Riemsdyk, Willman kept at it and managed to recover the puck, then snipe it past Primeau’s shoulder. It was Willman’s second NHL goal, in his 12th career NHL game.
Even though the Flyers’ energy quickly disappeared after that, they still went into the third up 2-1. Their go-ahead goal was thanks to another player called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Jackson Cates had been called up for the game against Vegas but did not play before being sent back down. After Morgan Frost was pulled from the New Jersey Devils game and placed into COVID-19 protocols, the Flyers recalled Cates. When he was first called up, he said he hoped to make a case to stay.
Cates had been playing with the fourth line in Lehigh Valley, and interim head coach Mike Yeo said he hoped Cates would bring that same energy to the Flyers’ fourth line. Yeo’s faith was rewarded with a fourth-line performance that was the only Flyers line to finish plus-one.
Cates’s goal, which helped the team come out of the loss with one point, was also his first NHL goal. The “dream come true” goal was scored on one of Cates’s “go-to” plays.
He and Willman were the only two to score in regulation. Both finished plus-one — two of just four players to do so — and Willman had four shots on goal while Cates had two.
“I think that’s what we want,” Yeo said. “We don’t want guys to just come in and play. We want guys to come in and make a difference and I thought that whether it’s Catesy or Max Willman tonight, those guys obviously did that for us.”
While Hart was steady, the skaters in front of him weren’t, allowing the Canadiens plenty of opportunities to attack the net. In the first period alone, they out-shot the Flyers 19-8. Hart allowed just one to go in, and it came on a deft tip from Artturi Lehkonen in front of the net.
“I feel like we say that every night with him in the net,” Willman said when asked about how Hart kept the team in it. “He’s the backbone back there.”
Helped along by a power play and the momentum from the tying goal, the Flyers had more offensive chances in the second. But the Canadiens still took 11 shots, and Hart stopped all of them as well as seven of eight in the third. He finished the night with 38 saves on 40 shots.
“He allows you that opportunity to settle the group in a calm way and find your game,” Yeo said. “So obviously, when your goalie’s playing like that, it builds confidence in the rest of the group.”
Yeo has been trying not to implement too many changes at once and is instead focusing on one thing at a time. This game, he said the focus was to work on finding and creating an identity. Despite the three-game win streak, he said they still had work to do.
The Flyers proved his concerns right when they came out flat against a struggling Montreal team. Just like they did in their 10-game losing streak, the Flyers struggled to get pucks out of their defensive zone.
When they did manage to move things into the neutral zone, they missed passes or gave the puck away before they could get any offense going.
“We got on our heels,” Yeo said. “We took a penalty early and they came out, established some momentum right off the hop. I thought that they were clearly the better team in the first period.”
They showed occasional sparks reminiscent of Wednesday’s 6-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, but they did not show a consistent identity within the game, much less one similar to the last three games.
“I think, again, I don’t think you can expect to just go out and win 6-1 every night,” Yeo said.
“One of the positives for me tonight was that we got down in the game and we found a way to battle back and get to our game. So I think what we’re trying to do is use every game right now as an opportunity to point towards what it looks like when we’re not doing our thing and what it looks like when we are.”
The Flyers return home to host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday at 7 p.m.