Flyers come out flat, lose to speedy Canadiens, 5-0

Matt Niskanen

Alain Vigneault’s frown said it all.

“We got our butts kicked today,’’ the Flyers coach remarked after a convincing 5-0 loss to Montreal in Game 2 of the opening round. “No doubt they outplayed us in every facet of the game, including the will department.’’

Those comments came moments after Vigneault’s team came out flat against the Canadiens and paid the price.

Montreal scored barely a minute into the game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and never looked back, evening the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

During the one-sided game, a frustrated Travis Konecny tried to smash his stick over the boards not once but twice and had about as much success with that as he did getting a puck into the net.

It was that kind of day for him and the Flyers.

Montreal, looking for all the world like it was trying to win one for their fallen coach, Claude Julien (heart surgery, out for playoffs), came out Friday afternoon resembling the “Flying Frenchmen’’ of the ‘60s and proceeded to put a hurting on the Flyers.

The series resumes on Sunday, 8 p.m., at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

It’s the first time the Flyers have allowed an opponent more than one goal in the five games they’ve played that count since arriving in Toronto.

The Flyers were so overwhelmed by Montreal’s early outburst, they did not record a single shot for the first 17 minutes of play.

The Canadiens, now directed by assistant coach Kirk Muller, continued to play firewagon hockey for the first 20 minutes and to storm the Flyers’ net.

At times, the Flyers looked flustered as the speedy Canadiens won one puck battle after another.

Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart, who gave one of his best performances in a Game 1 win on Wednesday, was pulled after Montreal’s fourth goal and replaced by veteran Brian Elliott.

“They outworked us, they outplayed us, they out-executed us,’’ Vigneault said. “Montreal’s will tonight to play the right way was much higher than ours. At this time of year, with the importance of the game, you certainly don’t expect that.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to turn the page and move on.’’

The Flyers’ power play continued to struggle, going scoreless (0 for 4) once again, including a stretch of 1:38 early in the second period when they enjoyed a five-on-three manpower advantage.

For the playoffs, they are now just 1 for 17 on the power play.

Carey Price recorded his seventh career playoff shutout in goal for the Canadiens. It was the first time the Flyers suffered a shutout playoff loss since falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-0, in Game 4 of the first round on April 18, 2018.

So what happened? Were the Flyers caught off-guard coming out of the gate or were the Canadiens just too good on this particular day?

“It’s a big game and we didn’t have the effort we wanted,’’ Kevin Hayes said. “We’ll go back, watch what we did poorly, learn from it. You can’t win the series in one game.

“I think the energy was there. Pucks didn’t go our way tonight. They handed it to us pretty badly.’’

Claude Giroux said the Flyers haven’t underestimated the Habs but they might have some new-found respect.

“They played well against Pittsburgh (a 3-1 series win in the qualifier),’’ said Giroux. “They outplayed us, they outworked us. We know that. We’ll just have to answer in two days.’’

Said Matt Niskanen: “I don’t think we underestimated them but it’s pretty clear they’re at a higher level than we are right now.’’

Tomas Tatar and Jesperi Kotkaniemi led the Montreal attack, each scoring a pair of goals.

Tatar needed just 1:02 from the start to get the first. A Brendan Gallagher entry nicked off Travis Sanheim’s skate right to Tatar for an easy shot past Hart. It marked the first time the Flyers have trailed in a game since arriving in Toronto.

At 12:36, Kotkaniemi scored for a 2-0 edge. Then Tatar connected on a power play at 1:25 of the second. The Flyers were angered with a holding call on Shayne Gostisbehere with seven seconds left in the first period which carried over into the middle frame, resulting in that 3-0 deficit.

Then Joel Armia’s entry try clicked off Gostisbehere’s skate and the puck bounced past Hart at 17:57 for the 4-0 margin.

Finally, at 10:35 of the third, Kotkaniemi scored again, putting a bow on Montreal’s near-perfect performance.

Can the Flyers bounce back in a hurry?

“We know we need to respond in a certain way,’’ Hayes said. “I have all the faith in the world in our leaders. We’re going to respond in the right way in Game 3.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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