MONTREAL - Situations, Peter Laviolette said, are what separate the good from the bad in today's NHL.
Last night, by all accounts, was a situation. And if the Flyers didn't assert themselves among the league's elite by extinguishing Sidney Crosby and the Penguins' 12-game winning streak on Tuesday night, they surely did so last night by overcoming a myriad of maligned happenstance at the Bell Centre.
In the 24 hours after topping Pittsburgh to jump into first place overall, the Flyers flew to Montreal to face the Northeast Division-leading Canadiens, who spent 3 days prepping for them, and blew a two-goal lead in the third period while skating with just five defensemen after losing Chris Pronger to injury.
Through it all, the Flyers still found a way to quiet the league's most rabid fan base with an exhilarating 5-3 win over the Canadiens to avoid being a 1-day wonder in the league's top spot.
With their fourth win in a row, the Flyers improved to an impressive 5-1-2 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season.
"When you're playing the big teams, like Montreal, you want to play them fresh," Laviolette said. "You want to give them everything you've got. We had an emotional game, a physical game, [on Tuesday] night. I think good teams learn how to win in situations like that. For me, we made that case.
"We were willing to fight for it. It wasn't our best, but we were willing to fight for it."
After skating nearly 19 minutes, a game-high among forwards, Jeff Carter and linemates James van Riemsdyk and Nik Zherdev had to be fighting for air. Carter's newly formed line carried the Flyers on its back, chipping in for four of the team's five goals, including van Riemsdyk's game-winner.
It was van Riemsdyk's second career two-goal game.
"We were able to get some key opportunities and we were able to bury them," van Riemsdyk said. "I've played with most guys on the team, but with Jeff I have some pretty good chemistry. He skates really well and attracts a lot of attention from the [opposing] team's defense and I'm able to hang around in the background there and get some more opportunities."
Zherdev, who picked up his second goal in as many games after sitting out last Saturday as a healthy scratch, may not be able to lurk in the background much longer.
Zherdev - who has spent most of the season on the fourth line and has received very little power-play time - made the most of his opportunity when bumped up the depth chart.
A testament to the Flyers' depth, Zherdev would be the Canadiens' leading scorer today with 11 goals.
" 'Z' was flying," Laviolette said. "They were terrific from start to finish. When I said that we didn't have our best jump, I don't mean everybody. That line had plenty of jump. They generated a lot of speed and a lot of opportunities with the puck."
Zherdev made it 3-1 just 5:31 into the third period-and the Flyers started to coast. Montreal took advantage and scored twice within a span of 3 minutes, including a brutal goal through Sergei Bobrovsky's five-hole.
The Flyers could have easily packed it in at that point, especially with just five defensemen. They didn't. Van Riemsdyk scored 56 seconds into a power play and Mike Richards picked off old buddy P.K. Subban to feed Claude Giroux in front to regain the two-goal lead just 61 ticks later.
"We've been able to deal with adversity this year," van Riemsdyk said. "These are games when you've really got to buckle down and make sure you get the two points."
"I don't think there was any panic, I think we were more irritated than anything," Laviolette said. "I think that's where we saw some experience come in and start to settle things down for us."
The Flyers, who are now 9-1-3 in their last 13 games, improved to 18-0-2 when leading after two periods. They did it despite being outshot, 41-30, and after turning the puck over 15 times.
"We didn't have our legs," Richards said. "It was evident. We turned a lot of pucks over. Our execution was off. But we found a way to win a hockey game. It was a gutsy effort. That's what we need to do. You're not going to play well every night."
Chris Pronger left the game after the second period with a lower-body injury. Pronger was not available to the media last night but will be re-evaluated by a doctor today in Philadelphia.
Pronger, who skated 15:54 in all last night, finished the second period on the ice before exiting the game after taking a shot in the foot.
With his 16th goal last night, Claude Giroux equaled last year's career-high in a season after just 33 games . . . Jody Shelley finished his two-game suspension last night and is eligible to return Saturday against the Rangers . . . The Flyers' next road game is not until Dec. 28 in Vancouver, when they begin their season-long West Coast road swing. These next 12 days at home mark the Flyers' second longest stretch of the season after a 2-week homestand in October.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at
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