MONTREAL (CP) - Head coach Guy Carbonneau has a simple reason why the Montreal Canadiens are playing their best hockey of the season: they're putting the team ahead of individual accomplishments.
Mike Johnson's short-handed goal in the second proved to be the winner as the surging Canadiens downed the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 on Thursday for their season-high fifth straight win.
From the first guy to the 23rd guy, everyone wants to sacrifice - whether it's their statistics or their bodies - for the good of the team," Carbonneau said.
However, given Montreal's winning ways of late, Carbonneau said a big part of his job is making sure his team doesn't become complacent.
"Even when you win there are little mistakes you can fix," he said. "But on the other hand we had Alex Kovalev blocking shots in the third period tonight, and I'm not sure we got that earlier in the season."
Guillaume Latendresse, Craig Rivet and Christopher Higgins also scored for Montreal (21-8-5), which has earned at least a point in eight straight games (6-0-2).
In the space of two days, Montreal went from beating the Eastern Conference's best team (a 5-2 road decision over Buffalo) to downing the worst in Philadelphia. And the Canadiens did it without suffering any letdown, outshooting the Flyers 18-8 in the first.
"These points are just as big as the ones in Buffalo," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "I think we controlled the game early and didn't get as many goals as we could have with all the chances we had.
"It could have been 5-1 halfway through the game."
Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter scored for the Flyers (8-21-4), who extended their franchise-worst losing streak to eight games and have won only three of their last 15.
David Aebischer made 26 saves for Montreal, including a big one on Sami Kapanen early in the third to maintain a 3-2 Canadiens lead, to win his second straight start and earn his 100th career win.
"It's pretty special," Aebischer said of the milestone. "It's not quite (Patrick Roy's all-time record of) 551, but I'm getting closer."
Antero Niittymaki made 33 saves and was generally solid for the Flyers, but still took his eighth straight loss.
Montreal's top-ranked power play went 2-for-8 and has converted at least twice in six of its last nine games. The Flyers effectively neutralized Montreal's biggest power-play weapon - Sheldon Souray's booming slapshot from the point - but still got burned by Latendresse and Rivet who scored from in close.
"Obviously Sheldon is a big part of our power play," Carbonneau said. "But if you take him away, we have other weapons, too."
One is Andrei Markov, who had two assists Thursday to give him six in three games.
Philadelphia did score twice on the power play to snap an 0-for-17 slump over the previous four games.
Philadelphia gave Montreal six power-play chances in the first, but it was the Flyers who had a chance to take a 1-0 lead when R.J. Umberger was hooked by Francis Bouillon while on a short-handed breakaway at 14:26. Umberger tried to deke Aebischer but couldn't beat him.
The Canadiens' power play finally struck for two quick goals in just over a minute late in the first. Latendresse scored his eighth of the year at 16:40, converting a Sergei Samsonov rebound with Montreal on a two-man advantage. On the same power play, Rivet worked a give-and-go with Michael Ryder for his fourth of the year at 17:49.
Philadelphia made it 2-1 at 5:41 of the second with a power-play goal by Knuble on a Simon Gagne rebound for his 14th of the year. Montreal went ahead 3-1 at 19:11 with its league-leading 10th short-handed goal of the year coming from Johnson. But Philadelphia countered with Carter's power-play goal at 19:30.
Higgins made it 4-2 at 13:57 of the third when he took a Saku Koivu pass streaking down the left side and scored his 11th of the season in only 16 games.
NOTES: Flyers centre Peter Forsberg missed his second game with a concussion. Philadelphia dropped to 0-8-3 this season when playing without its captain . . . Montreal D Mathieu Dandenault missed his second game with a left forearm injury . . . Canadiens forward Garth Murray returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games, taking demoted rookie Maxim Lapierre's spot on the fourth line . . . Canadiens centre Radek Bonk shed the full facial cage he had been wearing the past two games because of a broken nose and replaced with a half shield . . . Carter's goal was his first since Oct. 17 in his second game since returning from a 20-game absence with a fractured left shin . . . Mike York, acquired from the New York Islanders on Wednesday for Randy Robitaille and a fifth-round draft pick, made his Flyers debut.
Blue line boost