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Taking the High Road

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
(Montreal, Quebec) – While it would be easy for the Philadelphia Flyers and their front office personnel to look back on Game 1 and question some of the decisions made by the referees, on Friday morning it was evident that they would not go down that route and would quickly move on.

After all, the Flyers would be happy enough with a split in the first two games of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens, and will need another strong effort in Game 2 for that to happen.

While it’s impossible to know what they thought of the Alex Kovalev shorthanded goal and the late penalty to Mike Richards behind closed doors, the team said all of the right things on Friday to an always generous media contingent at the Bell Centre.

First, Richards was asked about his kneeing penalty with 1:09 remaining in regulation that led to the game-tying goal.
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“I went to hit [Kovalev], he went to dodge me, and I think my shoulder hit his hip. I guess it was a good call by him. I just went to finish my hit, he made a move and I clipped him.”

General manager Paul Holmgren was questioned on Kovalev’s goal, which tied the game at 2-2 in the second period although it appeared to be knocked in with a high stick.

“I thought after the stick made contact with the puck, his stick blade hit the top of the cross bar. But, I didn’t get a chance to view anything in high definition and I know the league in the war room in Toronto they have those capabilities,” he said. “What they’re saying, and they’re adamant, [is] that it was a good goal.”

So, that’s that. Now, the team must turn its attention to returning to Philadelphia with the series tied at a game apiece, with Game 2 at the Bell Centre on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., Versus). Generally, the Flyers were happy with their effort in Game 1, especially considering that it was their third game in four nights in three different cities.

“We did a lot of good things last night, and it’s obviously not the result that we wanted, but it’s a game to build off of,” said Richards.

“I’m confident that we can bounce back, and I’m confident that we played a good game with the schedule and the quick turnaround and all that,” added Martin Biron, who had 30 saves on Thursday. “You’re 30 seconds from a Game 1 [win] in a hostile environment building, and against a really good team.”

One facet of their game that could get better that several players and John Stevens acknowledged was the way the Flyers skated. Montreal is known as a fast team on its feet, both at the forward and defense positions. The Flyers would like to be more aggressive in Game 2, and try to force the Canadiens into more turnovers.

“We skated well but I still don’t think we skated as well as we can,” said Richards. “We didn’t get as much pressure on them as we could have. If we were a little quicker to pucks, and loose pucks, we didn’t really turn that many pucks over from good [positioning] last night. We have to get on pucks quicker and force them to turn pucks over.”

Danny Briere’s comments essentially mirrored those of Richards.

“I think we have to skate a little bit more. I don’t think we skated as well as we had in the Washington series. We did it in stretches, but not consistently enough last night to get us the win,” he said. “That’s one area we have to improve on, is get our legs moving instead of trying to make plays standing still.”

Briere saw a personal five-game point streak come to an end in Game 1, and although he continues to lead the NHL in playoff scoring with 11 points, Stevens thinks that he and his line will be better in Game 2. Stevens said that Vaclav Prospal, Briere’s linemate, will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of a much needed day off.

Prospal has just one assist in the last three games after getting off to a scorching start in the Washington series with eight points in the first five games (3g, 5a).

“I think Danny is skating well, I just think Vinny needs to start moving his feet again,” said Stevens. “I think that line five-on-five can get back to where they were before. The first half of the Washington series they were terrific and they were terrific down the stretch, and I think they can create more five-on-five.

“I would expect them to bounce back and as we move through this series we’ll see that line get better.”

The Flyers can also look back at Game 1 of their first round matchup with Washington, which they lost in a similar fashion yet still managed to win the series. In that game, Philadelphia surrendered a two-goal lead and then the game-winning goal late in regulation to Alex Ovechkin.

The Flyers won three straight after that, before finally squeaking out a Game 7 overtime win.

“You look at Game 1 against Washington; it was pretty disappointing the way we lost that game,” said Stevens. “Last night, we let them tie it up with less than a half minute to go and they steal the game away. It’s disappointing, but it’s one game.

"I think we’ve convinced ourselves that when we’re skating and we’re playing the game that we can play, we can play with anybody. That’s no different now.”

Briere also expects the team to rebound on Saturday.

“We’ve been down before. I wouldn’t say we’re down now, but it’s a tough situation. We’ve shown a lot of character in this dressing room, we haven’t quit all year, and we’re not going to start now.”
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