By Harry Allison
The Flyers made a statement last night at the Wells.
With their win over the Montreal Canadiens, they remain five points behind the Pens for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Wayne Simmonds scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period, and the Flyers defeated the Canadiens 4-2.
Brayden Schenn had a goal and an assist for Philly (22-18-8), Matt Read scored, and Jakub Voracek had three assists.Steve Mason made 30 saves to help the Flyers win their second straight game.
Defensemen Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry scored for Montreal (24-23-4), and Mike Condon had 32 saves. The Canadiens lost their third straight in regulation and fifth in the past six games (1-5-0).
Simmonds scored his Flyers-leading 16th goal at 11:56 of the third period after a strong individual effort by Voracek to take the puck from behind the Canadiens goal, hold off defensemanNathan Beaulieu and slide the puck to Simmonds in the slot.
“I just tried to get open,” Simmonds said. “Swung up top and came down the middle and [Voracek] got this eyes up and found me. Was a [heck] of a play. … He’s a strong guy. I think he’s probably, from what I’ve seen, one of the top two, three players in the League putting guys on his back and rolling around the net and making plays and scoring goals off of it.”
The Flyers had to kill off a five-minute major penalty for clipping against defenseman Radko Gudas for a hit on the Canadiens’ Lucas Lessio 20 seconds after Simmonds’ goal. The Flyers held Montreal to four shots on goal.
Gudas also received a game misconduct.
Lessio was helped off the ice by the Canadiens medical staff and did not return to the game. There was no update on his condition after the game.
The Flyers entered the game with the No. 26 penalty kill in the league, but they killed three of the Canadiens’ four man-advantage opportunities Tuesday, including another one early in the third period.
“At the tail end of a game here against a team that we’re trying to catch, trying to put some space between teams, the guys really come through,” Mason said. “The penalty kill has been an up-and-down thing for us all season long. Tonight we needed it for a whole five minutes and everybody did a great job. … Just kind of shows what we can do when guys are going on all cylinders there.”
The Flyers and Canadiens each have 52 points, five behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
Read closed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 42.2 seconds remaining.
“Tonight, the difference was the special teams,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “We had a chance to tie up the game and we had bad reads and bad execution. Pretty simple.”
The Canadiens are 6-19-1 since Dec. 1, the worst record in the NHL in that span, and their 48 goals are the fewest in the League.
“We’re just all looking for answers in here,” Beaulieu said. “It’s frustrating. We’re not going to give up on each other. We all care for each other and want each other to do well. But it starts right in this room, and we got to really lock ourselves in here right now.”
Therrien said he found some good in the loss.
“We got some quality scoring chances,” he said. “But Mason got the First Star [of the game] tonight. Not the first time that’s happened to us lately. Every goalie that we face seems really comfortable to play against us.”
After the Flyers took a 2-0 lead on first-period power-play goals by Schenn and Simmonds, the Canadiens rallied to tie it on Petry’s goal 2:30 into the second period.
Beaulieu had a chance to give the Canadiens the lead with 47.4 seconds left in the second when Alex Galchenyuk set him up in the left circle with an open net. Mason, in his first game since Jan. 21 because of a lower-body injury, was out of position but pushed over to make the save.
“Kind of caught me up in the neck area and fell into the glove,” Mason said. “They made a nice play across the crease, and fortunately he put it more back into me than the opposite side of the net.”
Beaulieu said the missed chance sums up what’s been a rough two months for the Canadiens.
“It was a great pass across,” he said. “It was coming in hot, and I tried to get it off as quickly as I could. … That’s got to be in the back of the net. That could change the game right there.”
The Canadiens won’t have much time to dwell on the loss, with a home game Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres.
“Short memory here and another two big points tomorrow, so we just got to move on,” Condon said.
The Flyers, who visit the Nashville Predators on Thursday, were pleased with how they started their stretch of 15 games in 29 days during February.
“We’re not going to have a lot of practice opportunities here, especially over the next month,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s about being ready to play on game day, doing whatever that takes physically and mentally. Got to do as good a job as we can being fresh physically and allowing ourselves to be fresh mentally. This is a typical example of the type of game we’ll be involved in. Lot of energy spent. Tomorrow is a good day to recover, get ourselves ready to go and get on the road and travel.”