Slow-starting Flyers come up empty in Montreal

Garnet Hathaway

After the Flyers played seven straight games against playoff-bound teams, they were hoping for a little relief when they visited last-place Montreal on Thursday night.

      The Canadiens, however, were not in an accommodating frame of mind.

      They jumped on the Flyers early and sent them to a 4-1 defeat at the Bell Centre. The Flyers were coming off a tough 6-5 overtime loss at the New York Rangers on Tuesday night and looked a little spent emotionally from that encounter, at least in the first half of the game.

      Philadelphia finally woke up in the third period and put two pucks across the goal line but both scores were disallowed. On the first, at 1:43, officials said no goal because Garnet Hathaway apparently put the puck in the net with a kicking motion. On the second play, at 5:48, Tyson Foerster, who put the puck in the net, was found to be a few inches offside after Montreal coach Martin St. Louis challenged the play.

      The only bit of good news for the Flyers was the out-of-town scoreboard. Both Washington and Detroit lost. The Capitals fell in Toronto to remain one point back of the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

      Montreal goaltender Cayden Primeau, the son of ex-Flyer captain Keith Primeau, picked up the win for the Canadiens. The Flyers tested him at times but really couldn’t apply any sustained pressure until the final minute when Owen Tippett scored his 27th goal with 1:01 to play.

      The Canadiens were coming off a surprising win at Colorado, so it wasn’t like the Flyers could say they were blindsided by this Montreal performance. You couldn’t call it a “trap” game based on that outcome in Denver.

      “We knew the kind of team we were playing against, they’ve been playing really well,” Hathaway said. “They came off the win in Colorado, one of the top teams in the league. It was a hard fought game tonight.”

      In analyzing the game, coach John Tortorella gave Primeau a good deal of credit. The young goalie nearly posted his third straight home shutout.

      “Both teams took awhile to get going, they score on a power play and we don’t,” Tortorella said. “We got to our game toward the middle, the end of the second period. But Primeau played pretty well from there on in.”

      Tortorella pointed out the Flyers did eventually generate more than 20 chances.

      “It took us awhile to get going,” he reiterated. “I think we had 11 or 12 in the third period. Primeau shut the door. I thought we were still there toward the end of the game. He made some really good saves. We just have to keep on going.”

      It was all Montreal in the first period, one in which they took a 2-0 lead.

      The first Canadiens tally came on a power play and was the 10th goal the Flyers have surrendered on their last 26 power-play opponent attempts.

      Nick Suzuki sent a shot past Samuel Ersson at 12:58 for his 30th goal of the season, a career-high.

      Then the Habs’ Jesse Ylonen made it 2-0 at 16:46 when he converted a cross-crease pass, with Suzuki also involved in the play and credited with an assist.

      Montreal improved to 19-0-2 when leading after two periods. That’s the best mark in the NHL for that situation.

      The Canadiens’ Joel Armia scored into an empty net with 2:55 to play for a 3-0 edge.

      Hathaway also had good things to say about Primeau. And too bad about the slow start.

      “I think if you look at our third period, it’s been our best,” he said. “I don’t think we played poorly before that. I don’t think we’re frustrated with our game either.

      “He (Primeau) played well. I thought we had some good chances. I think we could have gotten the puck to the net a little bit more. But their whole team, they shut it down well.”

      >Seeler getting closer

      The Flyers are hoping to have at least one of their three injured defensemen back for weekend action. The coaching staff disclosed Nick Seeler, who’s been skating on his own as he recovers from a lower-body injury, might be in the lineup for either Saturday’s game against Chicago or Monday’s game against the New York Islanders.

      Philadelphia also has Rasmus Ristolainen and Jamie Drysdale still recovering from injuries.

      >Deslauriers scratched

      In a game in which the Flyers didn’t seem to have much energy, they could have used a big hit or an emotional fight from enforcer Nick Deslauriers. But Flyers coach John Tortorella chose not to play his No. 1 physical player.

      >Short shots

      Connor Bedard, the favorite to win the Calder Trophy for NHL rookie of the year, will be at the Wells Fargo Center with the Blackhawks on Saturday night. . .Cam Atkinson returned to the lineup after being scratched for four straight games and six of the last seven. Noah Cates was a scratch from the lineup due to personal reasons. . .Flyers were 0 for 4 on the power play.

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About Wayne Fish 2472 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.