MONTREAL - Some things seem destined not to change for the Flyers in these playoffs. Such as protecting two-goal leads. And giving goalie Marty Biron well-earned breathing room.
Last night at the Bell Centre was no different as the Flyers taunted their faithful with a couple of leads, then clung to every square inch of Biron's pads with a tense 4-2 victory over Les Canadiens in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The series is tied at one game apiece, with Game 3 tomorrow at the Wachovia Center. The win assures a Game 5 next Saturday here.
"The last two games, the saves he's made, he has really given our bench a boost," Jeff Carter said of Biron. "Probably one of his best games as a Flyer. He's been unreal."
As Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette said between periods, "He looks like Ken Dryden out there."
Coach John Stevens didn't go that far but said: "Marty's had some great performances in the playoffs, obviously Game 7 in the first round. To get a split out here, I knew Montreal would play better and Marty would have to be our best player. And he was."
Biron had to have a career performance (34 saves) given the Flyers' innumerable turnovers, trying to make long, horizontal passes that were being picked off.
"We talked about the Washington series and we let one slip away," Biron said. "We came back hard in Game 2. We talked about how we had to buy time, get on the attack and buy some goals. We bought some time early in the game and got up 2-0. Tonight was different - we got that extra cushion goal."
The Flyers led by 3-1 going into the third period, when Montreal struck in fewer than two minutes on Andrei Markov's chip shot from the crease during a four-on-four. Montreal's pressure was relentless until R.J. Umberger's second goal of the game at 2 minutes, 21 seconds sealed it. He actually swatted his own rebound out of Carey Price's glove before backhanding the puck past the rookie goalie.
"Real gutsy effort by our team, because there were times when they might have outplayed us, but Marty kept us in it," Umberger said. "Great save after great save. In the playoffs, you have to find a way to win."
Biron took abuse, too.
"They were slashing Marty on more than one occasion," Danny Briere said. "Every time you push them, they like to fall on Marty. After they hit Marty, we push them and we get the penalty. We're trying to protect Marty. The NHL is going to have to help. We got warned about it. I think it should be the same for them."
Maybe the Flyers think they have spotted a weakness in Price, as both goals in the first period were high to the glove side. Umberger, who has four goals, got one at 5:53, and Carter made it 2-0 three minutes later. Both goals were wristers.
"So far, on our first two goals, he has gone down on his knees both times," Umberger said of Price. "He has left that little top corner open. Jeff made a great shot and put it right under the bar."
Soon after and into the second period, the Flyers made mistake after mistake.
"They started skating more and we didn't, and they were forechecking harder and we began turning the puck over," said Kimmo Timonen, who took a left hook to the face by Tom Kostopoulos after Umberger's clinching goal.
Saku Koivu's first goal of the playoffs made it 2-1 late in the first period, before the Flyers regained their two-goal lead in the second. Briere outmaneuvered Markov in the slot, then beat Price with a backhander, causing Vinny Prospal to remark, "Finally!"
The two have been struggling lately after Stevens removed Scott Hartnell from their line. Last night, Hartnell was reunited with them.
"[Hartnell] did a good job of pressuring and forced them to turn the puck over," Briere said.
In the final minutes of the period during a Flyers penalty kill, Biron twice had Tomas Plekanec shaking his head in utter futility with a couple of sensational glove snares.
"He got us a win," Timonen said of his goaltender.