The Flyers became the first expansion-era team to win 1,000 home games on Tuesday when they scored three power-play goals on the way to a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Defenseman Chris Pronger had 4 assists and rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves in winning his sixth straight start as the Flyers won to carry League-high totals of 33 wins and 71 points in 50 games into the break.
The last time they led the Presidents' Trophy race after 50 games was 1986-87 -- the season the Flyers dropped a seven-game series to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.
"The players deserve the credit … they're the ones who have to perform," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Going back to the playoffs last year and, now this year, there's been an expectation to win every game we play. I think there's a belief that we can win every game that we play. When you have an expectation and belief, that's a good combination."
Claude Giroux, who will join Danny Briere and Laviolette at the NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover on Sunday, was splendid in extending his career-high point-scoring streak to seven games with a power-play goal late in the second period that gave the Flyers a commanding 4-1 lead.
"We had four lines rolling and everyone playing well," Giroux said. "Everyone is on the same page and I think we're having a lot of fun, too. We'll go on the break but it's important to get back at it and play the same way when we return."
The most electrifying moment of the evening, however, didn't result in a goal but certainly had the 19,878 fans on their feet in appreciation at Wells Fargo Center. It began innocently enough on a turnover at 7:05 of the second. That's when the line of Nikolay Zherdev, Jeff Carter and Giroux and defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn imposed their will on the Canadiens by maintaining possession of the puck in the Montreal end for an incredible 1 minute, 28 seconds.
"It was amazing to see them go," Briere said. "I think that's tough when you're sitting on the bench and you see your teammates do that … you just want to get on the ice and keep it going. When it happens to you, it's deflating. You're wondering when is it going to come to an end. It was a great shift and big boost for us."
Laviolette was equally impressed by the shift.
"Montreal played in our end for a couple of shifts and it was hard to get the puck back from them," Laviolette said. "It gets tough to play defense. You get tired and when those shifts are good, they last 30 to 40 seconds. I'm not sure the length of that one, but I wouldn't be surprised if it approached two minutes. They stayed pressed in the offensive end. They were gassed a little when they got off, but it was a heck of a shift."
The Canadiens pulled within 3-1 with 7:17 remaining in the second when David Desharnais unleashed a rocket from the point that beat Bobrovsky, ending Philadelphia's bid for its first shutout of the season. Jaroslav Spacek nearly pared the deficit to one just 52 seconds later when his blast from the top of the left circle slipped between Bobrovsky's arm and body and trickled toward the goal line before the goalie reached back and covered it with his glove -- an ensuing video review revealed the puck never crossed the line.
After Giroux's goal restored the Flyers' three-goal lead, the Canadiens cut the deficit to 4-2 with 4:43 left in regulation on Mathieu Darche's ninth of the season, but the Flyers wouldn't allow another en route to their sixth victory in seven games. Canadiens' coach Jacques Martin pulled goalie Carey Price with 1:39 remaining and his team owning an offensive-zone draw. But the Flyers got to every loose puck and kept the Canadiens from getting a shot on goal before Briere hit the empty net with 24.3 seconds left.
Bobrovsky, who was making his third start in four games, earned his 21st victory in his 32nd appearance of the season.
"When we're rolling like we were, that's deflating for the other team," Pronger said. "It's great. I think the whole bench kind of picks up and feeds off that energy and excitement of all the playmaking and guys interchanging and moving all over the ice. It's deflating for their team."
A tightly contested opening period tilted in Philadelphia's favor when Montreal was whistled for three successive penalties -- Andrei Kostitsyn (slashing), Spacek (holding), P.K. Subban (slashing) -- in a 91-second span over the last four minutes.
Spacek's holding penalty, 49 seconds after Kostitsyn was called for slashing, presented the Flyers a two-man advantage before Subban slashed Briere 20 seconds later. On the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage, Carter knocked home a rebound from the slot at 17:42 before Timonen extended the lead to 2-0 on a blast from the point past a screened Price at 18:45.
Montreal entered the game ranked fourth in the League with an 85.4 percent penalty-killing efficiency and was ranked second on the road at 89.9 percent. It marked only the second time in 13 games that the Flyers had connected for two or more power-play goals in a game. They last scored three power-play goals in a game on Oct. 26 -- a 6-3 verdict over the Buffalo Sabres.
"It wasn't the quickest of starts, but the power-play needed to come up big and it did," Pronger said. "We were moving our feet, moving the puck quicker and getting some traffic in front. Kimmo's goal was a good example of that, getting pucks there and getting in front."
Daniel Carcillo made it 3-0 when he scored his third of the season just 23 seconds into the second. Carcillo fought of a check from Subban at the left hash mark before backhanding a shot past Price. Giroux's goal at 16:52 of the second came off a cross-ice feed from Scott Hartnell down low in the Montreal end.
The Flyers held the Canadiens scoreless and limited them to just four shots on seven power-play chances. Philadelphia, ranked 12th in the League with an 82.6 percent percentage, has killed 17 of its last 18 shorthanded situations -- the only goal came on an empty-netter by New Jersey's Patrik Elias last Saturday.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
|PPG - Jeff Carter (23) ASST: Mike Richards (29), Chris Pronger (14)|
1 - 0 PHI
|PPG - Kimmo Timonen (3) ASST: Chris Pronger (15), Mike Richards (30)|
2 - 0 PHI
|Daniel Carcillo (3) ASST: Chris Pronger (16)|
3 - 0 PHI
|David Desharnais (3) ASST: Hal Gill (5), Mathieu Darche (11)|
3 - 1 PHI
|PPG - Claude Giroux (19) ASST: Scott Hartnell (17), Daniel Briere (19)|
4 - 1 PHI
|Mathieu Darche (9) ASST: Travis Moen (6), Roman Hamrlik (17)|
4 - 2 PHI
|EN - Daniel Briere (26) ASST: Chris Pronger (17), Sergei Bobrovsky (2)|
5 - 2 PHI
|Power Play %||23.3%||16.9%|
|% on Road||20.5%||17.6%|
|% at Home||25.5%||16.2%|
|Scott Gomez Cross checking against Daniel Carcillo|
|Daniel Carcillo Roughing against Brian Gionta|
|Nikolay Zherdev Slashing against P.K. Subban|
|Andrei Kostitsyn Slashing against Claude Giroux|
|Jaroslav Spacek Holding against Mike Richards|
|P.K. Subban Slashing against Daniel Briere|
|Sean O'Donnell Interference against Travis Moen|
|David Desharnais Slashing against Blair Betts|
|David Desharnais Too many men/ice - bench|
|Andrej Meszaros Slashing against Mathieu Darche|
|Andreas Nodl Slashing against Jaroslav Spacek|
|Chris Pronger Roughing against Scott Gomez|
|Chris Pronger Roughing against Benoit Pouliot|
|Benoit Pouliot Interference against Andreas Nodl|
|Daniel Carcillo Misconduct (10 min)|
|Scott Hartnell Boarding against David Desharnais|
|Andrej Meszaros Slashing against Lars Eller|