MONTREAL - There are only so many times a team can fall way behind and pull out a stunning comeback victory.
And so it was last night in the Bell Centre.
The Flyers, so good at killing penalties and turning them into goals, fell behind last night on two Montreal power plays and never caught up, losing 5-2.
Antero Niittymaki, in for his second start in a row with Marty Biron out with the flu, had a less-than-spectacular performance behind a less-than-spectacular overall effort, and was burned twice on breakaways that Matt Carle never saw coming.
Arron Asham and Braydon Coburn each scored a goal, but neither goal changed the direction of the game and there would be no five-goal comeback, like what happened last week against Carolina.
It just doesn't happen that often, even an 18-year-old rookie knows that - or at least he does now.
"No way," Luca Sbisa said. "What we did against Carolina, that was something very special and we can't expect to just let the game slip away and think we can do that every night because it's very hard.
"We were down three goals [last night] and it didn't work. We tried hard but it's always hard to get back from three goals," he said.
Montreal scored three power-play goals, including one in the last minute. Kimmo Timonen tripped Alex Tanguay to keep him from scoring an open-net goal, but Guillaume Latendresse scored from the blue line anyway with 1 minute, 3 seconds left to play.
"I thought the first 10 minutes they kind of came at us a little bit," coach John Stevens said. "I still thought we created enough chances to win, but we missed the net an awful lot tonight and I can't remember the last time we gave up two breakaways in a hockey game.
"You don't want to let them get you into a rush game. They have some talented offensive people and their power play was operating at a high level. We got behind on them and you could just see the momentum."
Some would say it was inevitable that the Canadiens would get the calls last night after complaining to the league that they had been victimized in Tuesday's loss at Carolina. The Hurricanes had 18:10 in power-play time to the Canadiens' 2 minutes.
And that's what it seemed in the first.
Montreal scored its first goal just after the Flyers' first penalty kill. Matt D'Agostini broke through center ice and got behind Carle. Maxim Lapierre saw him go and sent him in alone, and D'Agostini slipped the shot between Niittymaki's feet.
The Canadiens went up 2-0 on the very next kill. With Niittymaki being screened in front, Sergei Kostitsyn blew in a shot from the blue line.
The score then went to 3-0 in the first period when Steve Begin, who was standing alone in front, tipped a point shot up and into the net.
The Flyers then woke up and started playing and cut the lead to two goals when Scottie Upshall made a play from behind the net to Asham in front. Asham one-timed the puck past Jaroslav Halak and the period ended at 3-1 Montreal.
If anything could be taken from this game, it was the ability of the third line to create so much offense.
"We just got a good forecheck," Asham said. "[Upshall and Glen Metropolit, who assisted] are two skilled players and we just did our thing, and it seemed to be working for us. We had a lot of chances. The pucks just weren't working for us."
The Flyers didn't turn that goal into anything in the second period. Instead, Carle got beat again, this time by Alexei Kovalev, who sneaked behind, went in alone on Niittymaki and popped his 300th career point into the net short side.
Coburn scored one late in the third when he lofted the puck toward the net and Francis Bouillon reached up for it and deflected it into the net instead. It cut the score to 4-2, but it was too little, too late.
"We dug ourselves a bit of a hole," Joffrey Lupul said. "We gave them some easy goals, which you can't do against a team that's struggling like they were. The two breakaways and their power play was good all night.
"We had some chances at the end of the second to maybe cut into that lead but couldn't bury it. We seemed just a little disjointed from the start. We weren't getting the puck in deep like we have in past games. Hopefully we just take it as a good lesson for us and simplify our game a little more." *