MONTREAL - Early in the third period, the beat of a song thumped through the Bell Centre. Lyrics blared: "Something's got to give."

The Canadiens, though, had nothing left.

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In the second period, perhaps their most dominant of the playoffs, the Flyers had squeezed the life out of the Habs and sucked the oxygen out of the NHL's noisiest building.

Like a boa constrictor wrapping itself around its prey, the Flyers held the Canadiens to one measly shot in the middle 20 minutes of an economical 3-0 win that gave them a three-games-to-one lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

It was a display of defense coach Peter Laviolette could use as an instructional video.

"We know what it's going to take to win this series, now," said gritty center Blair Betts, whose job is to deny and frustrate. "We came in after the first period, and thought that was the best period we'd played the whole series. Then, the second period was even better. We were doing everything we said we wanted to do after that last game."

In Game 3 on Thursday, the Canadiens rode the wave of their emotional crowd and pretty much owned the ice. The din from their crowd seemed to engulf the Flyers in the Habs' 5-1 win.

The idea for Game 4, Flyer Arron Asham said, was to leave the Canadiens and their fans glassy-eyed with boredom by building a wall at center ice. The Canadiens finished with 17 mostly harmless shots. Flyers goalie Michael Leighton could have pitched this shutout from a chaise lounge.

The Flyers' style may not have worked for Saturday's national television audience, but it worked for them. They outshot Montreal, 13-1, in the second period and scored two of their three goals off forced turnovers.

"We wanted to come in here and play kind of a boring style of hockey, play good defensively and take the fans out of it, and it seemed to work," Asham said.

The second period began with a dominant shift from the Flyers' checking line of Betts, Ian Laperriere, and Darroll Powe. They kept the Canadiens hemmed in around their own net. Then at 5:41 of the period, Claude Giroux broke in on Jaroslav Halak and deftly tucked the puck under the crossbar to the goalie's short side for the game's first goal. The play was initiated by a forced turnover.

The Flyers caught a break on the play as Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges put himself at a disadvantage as he tried to fix a strap that had popped loose from his skate. Giroux blew past him.

As the second period unfolded and the Flyers defense continued to flummox the Canadiens, the sense of frustration from the Habs' fans was palpable.

"Our system is about putting pressure on the puck constantly and not giving them easy plays," Betts said. "We noticed they weren't able to freewheel with the puck as much as they wanted to."

Perhaps no player illustrated Montreal's frustration more vividly than rookie defenseman P.K. Subban, who tried to force the puck into the Flyers' end of the ice but lost it to Chris Pronger. Pronger sent Ville Leino in for the Flyers second goal with 5:07 to go in a period of Flyers play that was as close to perfection as can be.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com