MONTREAL - Lars Eller and his youthful linemates Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are making it difficult for Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien to keep them on the bench.
Eller, Galchenyuk and Gallagher led the way offensively for a second straight game and Carey Price made 22 saves to give the Montreal Canadiens their first victory of the season, 4-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers at Bell Centre on Saturday night.
Gallagher and Eller each had a goal and an assist, and Galchenyuk had two assists for the Canadiens, giving the youthful line five goals and seven assists in two games. The rest of the Canadiens have combined for two goals and five assists, including a goal and an assist each for captain Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque on Saturday.
"Right now things are going well, the puck's bouncing our way a little bit," said Eller, who has three goals and two assists in two games. "There's going to be times during the season where there will be downs. Right now we're trending upwards, which is good, we just have to remember what's making us successful. As long as we compete, all three of us, even when we have down times we're going to help the team."
Therrien tried to shelter Galchenyuk, 19, from difficult minutes in his rookie season, while both Eller, 24, and Gallagher, 21, were often passed over in favor of veterans last season on the power play and in offensive zone situations. But those days appear over, and Therrien says minutes will now be given solely based on merit.
"That's [internal] competition," Therrien said. "It's pretty simple; you perform well you get ice time. You don't perform as well and your ice time goes down. And it's fair."
Eller likes the fact he might be making his coach's life a little more complicated by having such a strong start to the season.
"As a coach, if you have a problem, that's the best one you can have," Eller said. "Not knowing who to put out there because you have so many good players who want ice time, that's a good situation. It's a good problem to have."
Local product Vincent Lecavalier, who was booed all night by the 21,273 in attendance for choosing not to sign with the Canadiens as a free agent in July, scored his first goal with the Flyers on a power play at 9:13 of the third period to make it 3-1.
It was not enough for Philadelphia to avoid its second loss in two games, scoring once in each. The Flyers will quickly have another opportunity; they travel to Raleigh, N.C., to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon.
Though his team has two losses, Lecavalier has been in on each of the two goals his team scored.
"I'm starting to feel more and more comfortable, and I felt good tonight," Lecavalier said. "But obviously I'm going to feel much better when we get a win."
Free-agent acquisition Ray Emery made his first start in goal for the Flyers and kept them in the game, stopping 17 of 18 shots through two periods and finishing with 30 saves.
The Flyers' lack of discipline hurt them in this game; they gave the Canadiens nine power plays, including two 5-on-3 opportunities. Montreal capitalized on the second of those two-man advantages when Gallagher scored off a nice feed in front from Galchenyuk at 5:00 of the third period to make it 3-0.
Philadelphia went 1-for-5 on the power play to run its season total to 2-for-12 in two games, meaning the Flyers have yet to score at even strength this season.
Montreal forward Daniel Briere played his first game against Philadelphia since the Flyers bought out his contract this summer but did not have one of his better games; he took two minor penalties and produced little offensively despite playing 5:02 on the power play.
Still, beating his former teammates was a nice feeling for Briere.
"Playing guys I played with the past six years there were a lot of bragging rights, that's was probably what we were playing for," Briere said. "It's fun to get the first leg, but I'm sure they'll want to counter back later this season."
After Gionta opened the scoring at 8:10 of the first period on a nice feed from Bourque, the game settled into an exchange of power-play opportunities that went nowhere until the third period.
Eller scored his third goal of the season 12 seconds into the third, sweeping a sharp-angled shot past Emery after gathering a puck off a Gallagher shot that missed the net to put Montreal up 2-0.
Gallagher and Lecavalier then exchanged power-play goals, but Nick Grossman took a slashing penalty nine seconds after Lecavalier's goal to cut any momentum Philadelphia may have had.
Bourque scored his first of the season at 19:03 of the third period on a power play off a feed from Gionta to ice the game for the Canadiens, who embark on a four-game Western Canada road trip starting Wednesday against the Calgary Flames.
|Brian Gionta (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Rene Bourque (1), Tomas Plekanec (1)|
1 - 0 MTL
|Lars Eller (3) Backhand shot - ASST: Brendan Gallagher (1), Alex Galchenyuk (3)|
2 - 0 MTL
|PPG - Brendan Gallagher (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Alex Galchenyuk (4), P.K. Subban (1)|
3 - 0 MTL
|PPG - Vincent Lecavalier (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Brayden Schenn (1), Mark Streit (2)|
3 - 1 MTL
|PPG - Rene Bourque (1) Snap shot - ASST: Brian Gionta (1), Lars Eller (2)|
4 - 1 MTL
|Braydon Coburn Holding against Lars Eller|
|Luke Schenn Boarding against Alex Galchenyuk|
|Raphael Diaz Holding against Matt Read|
|Sean Couturier Hooking against Francis Bouillon|
|Daniel Briere Hooking against Claude Giroux|
|Raphael Diaz Tripping against Scott Hartnell|
|Nicklas Grossmann Tripping against Daniel Briere|
|Brendan Gallagher Interference on goalkeeper against Ray Emery|
|Ray Emery Diving against Brendan Gallagher|
|Wayne Simmonds Slashing against Ryan White|
|Daniel Briere Hooking against Jakub Voracek|
|Kimmo Timonen Holding against Lars Eller|
|Maxime Talbot Delay Gm - Face-off Violation|
|Josh Gorges Hooking against Vincent Lecavalier|
|Nicklas Grossmann Slashing against Brendan Gallagher|
|Travis Moen Fighting (maj) against Luke Schenn|
|Luke Schenn Fighting (maj) against Travis Moen|
|Wayne Simmonds Cross checking against Ryan White|
|Ryan White Interference against Wayne Simmonds|
|Wayne Simmonds Fighting (maj) against Ryan White|
|Ryan White Fighting (maj) against Wayne Simmonds|
|Scott Hartnell Hi-sticking against Andrei Markov|