IT TOOK THE FLYERS 68 shots to solve Montreal goalie Carey Price this season.

But breaking that drought last night wasn't nearly as satisfying as James van Riemsdyk's game-winner that ended 17 games of frustration and prompted an exalted fist pump.

"If you ask my parents and my brother, I probably wasn't a very happy person to be around over the last few weeks," van Riemsdyk said. "Sometimes, you forget how good it feels to score a goal. It drives you crazy."

Van Riemsdyk's first regular-season goal since April 1 capped off a come-from-behind, 3-2 win over the Northeast Division-leading Canadiens, and added a new name atop the NHL's leaguewide standings for the first time this season.

It is the first time that the Flyers have led the NHL more than 20 games into a season since Jan. 14, 2006.

Once the puck dropped, the much ballyhooed chatter between Mike Richards and Montreal's P.K. Subban, Maxim Lapierre's alleged strangling of the Flyers' Scott Hartnell and the beer that was poured on the Flyers' Sean O'Donnell just 6 days earlier in Montreal were all thrown out the window.

Oftentimes, the physical and emotional vendettas get wiped away in the face of two points.

"I can tell you that there wasn't one mention of it today in our locker room," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.

Instead, the 19,753 in the Wells Fargo Center - who booed Subban each time he touched the puck - were treated to maybe the Flyers' worst period of the season. The Flyers were outshot, 9-2, and trailed, 2-0, before they could even figure out who just ran them over.

"I was actually thinking about that before the game," the Flyers' Claude Giroux said. "Every time there's a game that's supposed to be rough, both teams just end up playing hockey. I think especially in the first period, they ended up playing hockey. Then I think in the second period, we finally showed up."

The Flyers showed up by pouncing on Price - who was 6-1-0 against the Flyers in the regular season before last night - and outshooting Montreal, 36-16, over the final two periods.

"It was kind of a sleepy first period for us," Laviolette said. "After that, they went out there and played a terrific 40 minutes. They never stopped playing and believing they could win that game."

After Ville Leino finally broke the dam on Price with 5 minutes to play in the second period, Giroux - who described himself as a "hardcore" Canadiens fan growing up - and van Riemsdyk added the unanswered tallies.

After the game, Richards said he might have even regretted saying what he did about Subban last week. But he didn't regret picking Subban's pocket in the corner in the third period to set up Braydon Coburn's shot, which ended up on van Riemsdyk's stick.

For van Riemsdyk, having Laviolette put him back on a top line with Richards and Andreas Nodl was confirmation that his last game in Washington was a solid step in the right direction after sitting out for four games as a healthy scratch earlier this season.

Some had even speculated that van Riemsdyk - mired in the longest scoring slump of his career - might have been swapped for Eric Wellwood before last night's game.

After all, van Riemsdyk's last actual goal came on June 6 in the Stanley Cup finals against Chicago - though he did score against Montreal in the Eastern Conference finals last season.

"The last three games or so, when I got back in the lineup, I felt a lot better," van Riemsdyk said. "I was kind of playing without that pressure a little bit and not squeezing the stick as much. It definitely makes things a little bit easier.

"It feels great. It's been a while. To score in a game when your team wins, it means that much more."

Now, van Riemsdyk is wondering if this goal will lead to more. Even though he was trying to avoid the sophomore slump, the followup to van Riemsdyk's up-and-down rookie year could be the inverse to his hot start and cold finish.

Eighteen of van Riemsdyk's 35 points last season came in the first 16 games. Through 18 games this season, he has seven assists to go with his newfound goal.

Sometimes, all it takes is a trickle that leads to a deluge.

"It felt great," van Riemsdyk said. "Now, I know that I need to keep this roll going."

Everyone in the Flyers' locker room was pulling for van Riemsdyk to break through. Van Riemsdyk described the goal as a "huge relief" and something that "took the weight of the world off your shoulders."

"Everyone was happy to see him get that," Darroll Powe said. "He's been coming close, hitting posts and stuff. He's been working really hard lately, so it's good to see him get that goal."

"I think every guy on the bench was happier than him," Giroux said before recalling van Riemsdyk's frustration during his time as a scratch. "Well, maybe not."

Slap shots

The Flyers were 0-4-1 when trailing after two periods before last night . . . The Flyers were 31-for-42 (73.8 percent) on face-offs in the second and third periods . . . In a tiebreaker, the Flyers have a greater goal differential than Washington . . . Montreal was 11-0-1 when leading after the first period before last night . . . Claude Giroux is tied for fifth in the NHL with 12 goals.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.