No matter how badly the Flyers have played this season, at least they probably won’t suffer the dubious distinction of having the NHL’s worst record.
The Flyers pretty much made sure of that on Thursday night with a 6-3 win over the Canadiens in a battle of battle of division cellar dwellers at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
So the victory moves the Flyers, last in the Metropolitan Division, eight points ahead of Montreal, the low squad in the Atlantic Division, with the Flyers (59 points) and Canadiens (51) each having only four games to play. Arizona of the Western Conference currently has the fewest points in the NHL with 50.
The win broke the Flyers’ six-game losing streak and prevented the Canadiens from sweeping the season series.
After taking a 4-2 lead into the second intermission the Flyers were determined not to fall apart late in the game, as they had late in the previous game between the two teams back on March 13 in Philadelphia.
In that match, the Flyers were leading 3-2 with time running out, but gave up a tying goal with 43 seconds to play and lost in overtime.
This time there would be no repeat.
“That’s been our goal all year, just to finish strong,’’ Travis Konecny said. “Guys just kept pushing.’’
James van Riemsdyk, who led the offensive attack with a pair of goals, liked the way the Flyers stood up the pressure when the Canadiens tried a repeat of that March victory.
The key, according to JVR, was to continue to press the attack rather than take a passive approach.
“I think for us when we’re playing our best game it’s much more noticeable when we’re on our toes,’’ he said. “Supporting ourselves and the D is real aggressive going forward. When we’re not playing well, we’re on our heels and teams are flying through the whole rink by us. I think we did a much better job of just staying aggressive.’’
If the Flyers were looking to improve their position in next month’s NHL draft lottery by tanking, it sure didn’t appear they were performing that way in the first period as the Flyers took a 2-1 lead.
Van Riemsdyk converted a Bobby Brink setup at 7:43. Goalie Carey Price messed up a puck clear behind the net. Eventually JVR poked a puck Price for his 22nd goal of the season.
The Flyers then took a 2-0 lead when Ivan Provorov took advantage of a faceoff win to score from the left circle. Brink had an assist on this goal as well.
Montreal’s goal in the period was a controversial one. It appeared a Canadien player, Brendan Gallagher, moved the puck to a teammate with his glove, making it a non-legitimate play. Instead, Mike Hoffman was credited with the goal at 15:31. Interim head coach Mike Yeo wanted to challenge the play but officials told him – incorrectly – that it was a non-reviewable situation (which it wasn’t).
Clearly the Flyers weren’t too happy with that turn of events and the reaction might have been a lot worse if the Flyers had lost this game and, in particular, on that play.
“I don’t know what the deal was there, I don’t know if we were allowed to challenge it,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “But it (the glove violation) looked pretty obvious to me. I don’t know if it hit something after he gloved it. But it happened and we responded well. We haven’t done that enough but tonight we were able to keep playing.’’
The Canadiens pulled into a 2-2 tie at 5:28 of the second period when Jake Evans deflected a shot out of Martin Jones’ reach. The deadlock didn’t last long as Oskar Lindblom beat Price from the left circle at 6:49.
Konecny made it 4-2 at 13:02 with a bullet from the slot. In the third period, Morgan Frost scored with 4:24 to play.
Van Riemsdyk scored with 3:04 to play, giving him 23 for the season, tying him with Cam Atkinson for the team lead.
Overall, Yeo was pleased with the way his team didn’t let the Hoffman goal become a distraction. That’s a sign of a little bit of fortitude.
“We knew it was a hand pass,’’ Yeo said. “There was a mistake (by the officials) that happened. I think the big thing for us we didn’t let it derail us. We’ve been talking about that a lot, about how you deal with adversity. I think our guys did a good job of that tonight.’’
>Hogberg makes debut
Rookie defenseman Linus Hogberg made his NHL debut and wore number 84. Hogberg was filling in for the injured Kevin Connauton. The Swede picked up an assist on the Lindblom goal.
In all, nine players have made their NHL debuts with the Flyers this season.
“I thought all of our young guys played well tonight,’’ Yeo said. “He (Hogberg) provided a lot of stability for us. They (Montreal) have a lot of skill and speed and I thought our guys played composed.’’
Provorov’s goal gives him 59 for his career, moving him into a tie for fifth place with Behn Wilson on the Flyers’ alltime defense scoring list. . .The Flyers are off until Sunday when they play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins. . .The Flyers’ power play began the game at 12.2 percent, putting it on pace to be the worst in franchise history. . .Jones is now 9-1-0 lifetime vs. Montreal.