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Philadelphia, PA – Petr Nedved scored the game-winning goal in the shootout, as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens at the Wachovia Center on Monday night, 5-4.
Mike Ribeiro and Peter Forsberg each scored in the shootout as well, but it remained 1-1 after three shooters apiece. After Alexander Perezhogin was unable to convert on Montreal's fourth shot, Nedved went to his backhand to beat goaltender Cristobal Huet and snap Philadelphia's four-game losing streak after the Flyers had surrendered a late two-goal lead.
"When you haven't won, it isn't going to be a masterpiece when you try to get the thing back," said Ken Hitchcock. "We took some steps today but we have work to do. You get on the wrong side of things and it's not one thing that goes wrong, it's a lot. We made some steps today to really help ourselves."
"It's been a good couple of days, guys are really taking charge of the ship," said Robert Esche, who finished the night with 32 saves. "We had a meeting yesterday with just the players, and guys are putting the onus on themselves to get this right. It was an ugly win tonight, obviously we are not happy with the third period, it's not the right way to play hockey."
Philadelphia opened the scoring more than halfway through the game and led for the majority, but a late comeback salvaged a point in the standings for the Canadiens.
After a goal by Chris Higgins cut the Flyers' lead to 3-2 in the third period, Joni Pitkanen converted a pass by Simon Gagne on a two-on-one rush to give Philadelphia its two-goal cushion back just 40 seconds later.
The Flyers had a great chance to ice the game away with 1:16 on a two-man advantage but could not convert. The Canadiens made them pay with two goals to tie the game.
First it was Ribeiro, who roofed a shot from close range in front of Esche with 4:30 remaining. Then, the Canadiens got a power play when Forsberg was whistled for hooking with 2:40 left. Sheldon Souray found the top corner of the net on the short side of Esche from the faceoff dot with 1:43 remaining in regulation.
Philadelphia had the best opportunity in overtime, but Huet stopped Mike Richards on a breakaway with six seconds left.
Still, the Flyers were relieved to pick up the two points and pull to within a pair of the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers.
"We needed the two points that's for sure," said Derian Hatcher. "There is no question about it, no one is happy about blowing the lead in the third period, but we needed the points. We got the win, and everyone wishes we didn't give up the lead, but we found a way to win the game."
After a scoreless first half of the game, the Flyers struck first on Forsberg's 16th goal of the season. On the play, Gagne drove hard to the net with the puck before Forsberg was able to jam it underneath the outstretched glove hand of Huet at 11:54 on the power play.
Gagne was playing in his first game since the Olympic break, sitting out the previous three due to a bone bruise in his right knee suffered while playing for Team Canada. The Forsberg-Gagne-Mike Knuble line was together for the first time since January 25, as Forsberg missed eight games before the break with a groin injury.
"This thing was going very well when we were reasonably healthy," said Hitchcock. "Now, the players are starting to come back but they are not the players they were when they were healthy. We are trying to work those players back in, win hockey games, play a great team game and play against some really good teams."
Philadelphia made it a 2-0 game with another goal during a man advantage at 14:37. After Esche stopped Higgins on a shorthanded breakaway, Jeff Carter brought the puck into the Montreal zone and left it for R.J. Umberger at the top of the faceoff circle. Umberger's blast with Carter in front of the net trickled in for the rookie's 11th of the season.
Montreal cut the lead to 2-1 at 15:25, when Richard Zednik won a battle for the puck in the corner, tipping it to Jan Bulis behind the net. Bulis found Ribeiro in the slot for a one-timer.
Eric Desjardins' goal at 5:27 of the third period made it 3-1 at the time.
The Flyers continue their homestand with Carolina on Wednesday (7:00 p.m., CSN) and Buffalo on Saturday (2:00 p.m., CSN) before beginning a four-game road trip in Pittsburgh on Sunday (7:30 p.m., CSN).FLYERS NOTES
Montreal has gained at least a point in its last nine games … Montreal won the previous three games in the season series by a combined score of 13-5. … Huet was named the NHL's defensive player of the week earlier in the day … Donald Brashear returned after serving a one-game suspension.