PHILADELPHIA - The Canadiens struck first on Thursday night, but couldn't generate much of anything after that in the City of Brotherly Love.
Following Nikita Nesterov's first career goal in a Habs uniform just under five minutes into the opening frame, Michel Therrien's troops struggled mightily to establish themselves in the Flyers' zone for any sustained period of time - and they ultimately paid the price for it on the scoresheet, dropping a 3-1 decision at the Wells Fargo Center.
Claude Giroux scored the game-tying goal at the 17:50 mark of the second period, before Matt Read put the Flyers ahead for good 3:32 into the final frame. Sean Couturier capped the scoring with an empty-netter.
The Canadiens amassed a season-low 16 shots on goal in the loss, marking just the third time that they'd produced under 20 total shots in a single outing so far this season.
"Right after we scored the first goal, we didn't have the right attitude to compete [with the Flyers]," said Therrien, following the Canadiens' 15th regulation loss of the year, which also happened to be their second in the last three games. "It's just as simple as that…It wasn't a good game."
Therrien's charges were certainly in agreement there. Tomas Plekanec expressed similar frustration with the way things played out after the Canadiens got off to exactly the type of start they were hoping for in a building that has been anything but hospitable to them in recent years.
"We didn't play well enough to earn any points out of this game," said Plekanec, who has now seen the Canadiens win just one of their last 10 regular-season outings in Philadelphia dating back to November 2010. "I think we didn't forecheck well. We weren't really good and compact on the forecheck like we are in other games. That's the key if you want to create scoring chances. To generate offense, you've got to be good on the forecheck."
Alex Galchenyuk was quick to give the Flyers credit for their strong defensive efforts. In his first game back after re-aggravating a knee injury and missing three consecutive contests, the Canadiens' No. 27 picked up an assist on Nesterov's tally, but was held in check like the rest of the group for the remaining 55 minutes on the night.
"We tried to get some offense going. It was a really weird, tough game. Obviously, we would have wanted to get more going, a little bit more offense and create a little bit more, but it's one of those games," said Galchenyuk, who logged 16:01 of ice time in his return to active duty. "They played a good structured game, I thought. They played really well on the forecheck. Neutral zone, they were pretty tight."
Jeff Petry, meanwhile, was particularly disappointed that the Canadiens didn't find a way to make Neuvirth's life difficult at all since it was a major topic of conversation before things even got underway on Thursday night.
"Going into the game, we knew that we needed to put pucks to the net and make him make saves, but it's something that we didn't generate," said Petry. "Our goal is to get pucks in deep and play in their end. I think we had a tough time sustaining O-zone time. There was a lot of time in the neutral zone and a lot of time going back for pucks and breaking out."
The Canadiens will have to fix that - and fix it quickly - with back-to-back games coming up over the weekend against the Washington Capitals and Edmonton Oilers, respectively, at the Bell Centre.
For his part, Carey Price is a firm believer that things will be very different come Saturday afternoon when Alex Ovechkin & Co. are in town.
"I don't have any doubt that we will [rebound from the loss]," concluded Price, who turned aside 21 of 23 shots against the Flyers. "We've got a team with a lot of character and we're looking forward to getting to the next one."