By Mark Gallagher
Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice and Carey Price had 40 saves as the Montreal Canadiens trumped the Flyers 4-1.
Price stopped a two-man short-handed breakaway early in the second period to keep the game tied at 1, just seconds before Kovalchuk took a deflected Shea Weber shot from the point and slammed it into the open left side of the net to break the deadlock.
Just 11 seconds later, Artturi Lehkonen tipped a pass into the slot from Phillip Danault between backup goaltender Alex Lyon’s pads to give Montreal a 3-1 lead. After that, the Flyers never were able to generate high percentage scoring chances in front of Price.
A series of wins over Washington, Boston and St. Louis — three of the leading teams in the NHL standings — had given the Flyers a playoff spot. However, they played with heavy legs at times on the second game of a back-to-back following Wednesday’s win over the Blues in St. Louis.
“Sometimes after an emotional one, it’s tough to get up the next day,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “But it’s no excuses. We didn’t play our game, we didn’t play well, and it’s two points that we let go here.”
Price recorded his third straight win, stopping 112 out of 114 shots during that stretch.
“We were not pleased all around about last night,” said Price, who sat out Wednesday night against the Blackhawks. “It is never easy coming on the road in a back — to back, but I thought we did a great job.”
Tomas Tatar scored his 17th goal of the season to tie the game at 1 late in the first period, Kovalchuk added the final score midway through the third period for Montreal, who find themselves six points behind Columbus for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Joel Farabee broke a 17-game scoreless drought with his fourth goal of the season to give the Flyers a brief lead in the first period. Lyon recorded 36 saves in his first NHL action since starting goaltender Carter Hart was injured earlier in the week.