MONTREAL – With his boyhood hero, Carey Price, watching from the bench, Carter Hart did a worthy imitation Saturday night.
Amid a 33-save performance, Hart held off an early Montreal onslaught and a frantic late one as the Flyers pushed their pre-bye week winning streak to three with a 5-2 victory over the red-hot Canadiens.
Nolan Patrick scored twice in the third period, his second goal draining some of the home team momentum generated after Max Domi finally beat Hart at 7 minutes, 36 seconds of the third period.
Montreal got a second goal on Brett Kulak’s rebound at 16:00 of the third period, but Michael Raffl iced it with an empty-netter in the final minute.
The victory snapped the Canadiens' own streak at four. The Habs were also in search of the 2,000th franchise home win -- they are the first of the Original Six teams to reach the cusp of that mark.
Hart thwarted that effort with a herculean performance in the first 20 minutes, as Montreal outshot the visitors, 12-1, but got nothing but frustrated from the effort.
``I looked at him a few times during warmups,'' said Hart, who hung a poster of Price on his wall as a youngster, and who he has modeled his game after the perennial All-Star. ``It was kind of cool to be on the same ice as him.''
``I’m sure Price noticed him tonight too,'' said Travis Konecny.
Konecny’s goal at 17:01 of the second period broke up a scoreless game. Ninety-three seconds later, James van Riemsdyk redirected Robert Hagg’s shot past Antti Niemi, providing an unlikely 2-0 lead entering the third period.
It was JVR’s sixth goal in his last five games.
``First period, Carter gave us a chance to break even,'' said Flyers interim coach Scott Gordon. ``Obviously that was a huge part of the game. They were the better team in that period, wasn’t close. But we got better as the game went on.''
The Flyers outshot the Canadiens, 13-10, in that second period. But Hart was plenty busy – and plenty smart. He continually defused Montreal’s offensive zone mayhem with freezes.
"Ice in his veins,’’ Wayne Simmonds had said before this game when asked what made him good.
You would think he might be a little nervous playing in front of Price, or playing in Montreal for the first time as a pro.
You would be wrong.
``It was fun,'' he said.
Some nifty work by Simmonds on a two-on-one with Patrick upped the Flyers' lead to 3-0 at 7:05 of the third period, but that comfort level was short-lived. Thirty-one seconds later, Domi finally beat Hart’s glove, wristing a drop pass from Tomas Tatar into the twine.
On the road, in a raucous building, the Flyers often became undone this season. With the arrival of iGordon, the Flyers have dealt with tight games better. After winning three times by one goal in their first 31 games, they have five one-goal victories with Gordon at the helm…
And Hart in the net.
Saturday night’s victory gave the Flyers 44 points. According to Sportsclubstats.com, they would need a 25-6-3 record over their final 34 games to accumulate the 97 points achieved by last season’s eighth seed (New Jersey) -- a winning percentage that exceeds that of Tampa Bay, by far the best team this season.
"I haven’t done the math, and I really don’t want to,’’ Hagg said after practice Friday. "The only thing I know is that we need every single point that we can get. The thing that’s going for us is that nobody believes we can make the playoffs.’’