The Flyers, who looked so bad in Game 2, have responded with a pair of grinding wins to build a 3-1 series lead with a chance to close it out on Wednesday (8 p.m., NBCSP, NBCSN). Here are some observations from their 2-0 victory.
As promised. Coach Alain Vigneault pledged some changes after watching his team score three goals in three games against the suffocating Canadiens. Most notable was Claude Giroux moved off the first line and Joel Farabee coming back into the lineup for the struggling James van Riemsdyk.
Coach Midas. Michael Raffl took Giroux’s spot on the first line and scored the first goal of the game with a top-shelf laser. Raffl, who missed the first two games of this series, has three career postseason goals — one each against Carey Price, Braden Holtby and Jaroslav Halak. Not bad company.
Thanks, Carey. Phil Myers scored the second goal on a fluttering shot that Price knocked into his own net. Think it was the first truly soft goal allowed by either netminder. “That was the break we needed,” sighed Montreal associate coach Kirk Muller.
Power-play update. No goals again, but there was a pulse. The Flyers failed to score on three attempts and are now 1-for-28 since the season restarted.
Number to note. As gruesome as the power play has been, conversely, the Flyers have not allowed the Canadiens to score since Game 2 — a span of 129:25.
Subtle play. The Canadiens were buzzing and the puck rolled in on Carter Hart very late in the second period. Most goalies may have swept the puck to the corner to try to run out the remaining five seconds. There was pressure, so Hart chose to freeze it, which is the right move when you have the NHL’s best faceoff man. Sean Couturier cleanly won the draw and the period quietly ended.
G forcing: Giroux had a good chance on a power-play one-timer, but it’s obvious he’s still struggling -- especially passing when he should be shooting. He has just two assists in the playoffs, but is contributing elsewhere, including the faceoff dot, where he won 10 of his 14 draws (71.4%). As a team, the Flyers won 65.5% (36 of 55).
That was scary. Robert Hagg, who has been a prolific shot blocker in his three seasons, took a blast that glanced off the back of his helmet early in the third period from Shea Weber. Weber probably has the hardest shot in the league, so there was a palpable gasp when Hagg fell to his knees. The Flyers defenseman did not miss a shift. It was similar to a play in January when Hagg was drilled in the behind by an Alex Ovechkin laser, which also had to be north of 100 mph. Nate Thompson also put his body in front of a Weber shot in the third.
Our three stars. Carter Hart, Michael Raffl, Nate Thompson. The official three stars were Raffl, Hart, Phil Myers.
That was dangerous. Tyler Pitlick got his stick caught up in the jersey near the neck of Carey Price while charging the net. Pitlick quickly dropped his lumber and Price was uninjured.
Feel the frustration. Hart has stopped the last 52 shots on goal his faced, plus Montreal had another 67 that were either blocked or missed the net. Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber summed it up best when he was asked what Montreal’s problem was. “If I [knew],” the captain said, “we would fix it and the results would be a lot different.”