The Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens head into Friday’s Game 2 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series with a sense of confidence.
That might seem more logical for the Flyers, who posted a 2-1 win on Wednesday in the series opener in Toronto.
Philadelphia was outplayed in the second period before Joel Farabee scored the go-ahead goal just 16 seconds after Montreal had forged a tie. The Flyers also reaffirmed a belief in goaltender Carter Hart, who made 27 saves.
“He’s a great young goalie, a lot of potential. He’s just been a true pro ever since he got here,” Philadelphia center Sean Couturier said of Hart, who turned 22 on Thursday.
Hart is playing at the opposite end of the ice from his childhood idol, Montreal goalie Carey Price.
The Flyers were most impressed with the poise Hart showed to weather a second period when his teammates showed some sloppiness. He then then shut things down in the third.
“(Hart) did a great job and kept us in the game,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said.
The Flyers have won 13 of their past 14 games, including all three of their round-robin contests earlier in these reconfigured playoffs.
Despite the loss, the Canadiens proved to themselves that they can play with the top-seeded Flyers. Montreal entered the postseason ranked 12th in the East before knocking off the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round.
“I thought from the second period on (Wednesday) we really started to play our game, and I think we built some confidence in knowing we can play with these guys,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said of his club.
Julien, however, was hospitalized after the game with chest pains and is not expected to be back for the remainder of the first round.
“Claude felt chest pains during the night,” general manager Marc Bergevin said Thursday. “We immediately consulted our doctors and it was agreed to quickly transfer him to the hospital by ambulance. He’s presently there and is under tests to determine exactly the nature of his condition. This has nothing to do with COVID.
“We don’t expect him to be back during this series against the Flyers. Kirk (Muller), Dominique (Ducharme) and Luke (Richardson) will share the responsibility. However, Kirk is the associate head coach and he will assume the responsibility of head coach until Claude’s return.”
The Canadiens shook up their lines during the series opener, the biggest move being elevating feisty but talented Max Domi from center on the fourth line to winger on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Montreal also moved rookie Nick Suzuki onto the top line between Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher. Suzuki, however, preferred to look at a bigger picture.
“I think we can generate a ton as a group,” he said. “We’ve shown that we can play against the top teams in the league, and this team is definitely one of them.”
Some of both teams’ confidence came from notching a power-play goal. Philadelphia had been 0-for-11 this postseason while Montreal 0-for-12.
“I think we were more aggressive, more direct and firing pucks at the net,” Provorov said. “We got a lot of shots from the top, and that helped us to create chances.”
The Canadiens’ only goal came during a man-advantage, from defenseman Shea Weber.
“That is big, obviously, for the power play,” said Weber, a hulking defenseman who leads Montreal with three goals, five points this postseason. “Hopefully, that can build some momentum.”
–Field Level Media