Montreal forward Alex Belzile was all alone in the slot late in the first period Tuesday and pushed his shot well wide of the Flyers’ Carter Hart. Middle of the second period, Jonathan Drouin had a similar chance and also booted it wide.
So this is what it’s like to have a playoff goaltender. The notes will come fast and furious about what Carter Hart, 22, is doing to the record books. But what’s he done to the Canadiens these last two games is more important.
Montreal chased Hart in Game 2 with four goals in less than two periods. Since then, nothing. No goals in 52 shots. No goals in 119 attempts (shots, blocks and misses). No goals in two straight games. So what’s it like from Montreal’s point of view?
“If I [knew],” captain Shea Weber said, “we would fix it and the results would be a lot different.”
As the minutes and losses pile up, Montreal associate coach Kirk Muller can only shuffle the lineup and ruffle some feathers.
Two-time 30-goal scorer and alternate captain Brendan Gallagher still hasn’t scored a goal in these playoffs, which is at eight games and counting for Les Habitants. He was benched for much of the third period.
“You play for your teammates,” said Gallagher, who has been stopped on all 17 shot attempts in this series. “Regardless of what’s happened, I’ve got to find a way here. I guess if the coach feels other guys are going to do the job better than you, that’s his [decision]. It doesn’t mean I have to sit there and accept it, but what am I to do?”
Weber commended the Flyers for “clogging up the neutral zone.”
“A lot of our dumps haven’t given us a chance to retrieve the pucks,” said Weber, who has one of the hardest shots in the league. “And their exits are pretty [efficient]. … They’re also doing a great job in the middle in their own end; blocking shots, getting a lot of bodies in front. Really making it difficult to get pucks to the net.”
The Flyers blocked five Weber shots, including two frightening looking plays by Robert Hagg and Nate Thompson in the third period.
So it’s blocks and downright misses that have the Canadiens in a 3-1 hole. It’s also a certain baby-faced killer in net who became the youngest goaltender since World War II ended to record consecutive shutouts.
“We’ve seen exceptional goaltending in these playoffs,” Muller said. “The one thing you can’t do is let a goalie get into your head. It doesn’t always take a perfect shot to score.”
Ask Phil Myers. His second goal of the game was a softy past Carey Price that resembled many of the bad playoff goals given up by the Flyers during their 45-year Cup drought.
“We had some chances. We just couldn’t bury them,” said Phillip Danault, who also hasn’t scored in these playoffs for Les Habs. “We had a slow first period. We have to start right off the bat next game. We have to forget that game. We have to forget these last two games, actually.”