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Canadiens and Flyers evenly matched in East final

by John Kreiser / NHL.com
If the regular season is any indication, the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers are very evenly matched as they prepare for their showdown in the Eastern Conference Final.

Not only did the teams both finish the regular season with 88 points (Philadelphia finished ahead of the Habs with two more victories) and split their four-game season series, they're both coming off seven-game upset victories in the conference semifinals in which they won Game 7 on the road. Montreal stunned Pittsburgh 5-2 in Game 7 on Wednesday, two nights before Philadelphia came back from a three-goal deficit for a 4-3 win at Boston, capping a rally from a 3-0 series deficit.

The Canadiens have won three of the five playoff meetings between the teams, though the Flyers won the last one by beating Montreal 4-1 in the second round in 2008. Three of the five meetings have come in the semifinals or conference finals; Montreal has won two of those series.

Here's a look at the four regular-season meetings between the teams:

Dec. 7, 2009: Philadelphia 1 at Montreal 3

Both teams set club marks for fewest combined shots in a game -- Philadelphia had 15, Montreal just 13 -- but the Canadiens got goals by Marc-Andre Bergeron, Andrei Kostitsyn and Michael Cammalleri to overcome Danny Briere's first-period goal.

"It felt a little bit weird out there," Cammalleri said. "I don't know what it looked like watching but it felt a little weird, like both teams were playing possum a little bit."

Philadelphia lost its fifth in a row and second straight since replacing John Stevens with Peter Laviolette.

"We played two decent periods of getting the puck in deep, grinding on their defense, grinding on their forwards, and created some decent scoring opportunities through that," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "But the few turnovers we made cost us one goal and then our inability to get the puck in deep in the third period didn't allow us to get any cycles and any of that grind game going."

Feb. 12, 2010: Montreal 2 at Philadelphia 3

The combination of Jeff Carter and Michael Leighton was too much for the Canadiens, as the Flyers took a 3-0 lead and held on for a victory at the Wachovia Center in the opener of a home-and-home series.

Carter scored his 25th of the season late in the first period, then connected again 1:17 into the second. Matt Carle beat Carey Price two minutes later for what proved to be the game-winner when Glen Metropolit and Dominic Moore scored 56 seconds apart early in the third.

"We were able to gut it out tonight," defenseman Chris Pronger said.

The Canadiens pressed for the tying goal but couldn't get another puck past Leighton, who made 31 saves.

"We came back in the third, but it was one of those games where we just ran out of time," Moore said.

Also notable was the NHL debut of Montreal rookie PK Subban, who played when Andrei Markov was a late scratch.

Feb. 13, 2010: Philadelphia 6 at Montreal 2

One night after hanging on to beat the Canadiens, the Flyers blew them out at the Bell Centre to wrap up play before the Olympic break.

Montreal-area native Danny Briere, not a fan favorite since opting to sign with the Flyers two years earlier, made himself even more unpopular by getting a hat trick -- including a third-period penalty shot goal against Carey Price, who played the final 20 minutes after the Flyers lit up Jaroslav Halak for five goals in the first two periods.

"Let's just say that it's easier to find the motivation to play," Briere said. "Obviously, having friends and family in the stands and everybody booing you, it gives you that little extra juice pumping in your veins, there's no doubt about it."

Michael Leighton made 26 saves to win for the second time in as many nights against the banged-up Canadiens.

Montreal coach Jacques Martin said his team needed "to take a mental break" during the two-week pause for the Winter Games.

"I told them about the importance of the final stretch of 19 games," Martin said. "Right now we're in a playoff position, but we need to sprint to the finish over those final 19 games."

April 2, 2010: Montreal 1 at Philadelphia 0

With four teams battling for the final three playoff berths in the East, Halak made up for his previous showing against the Flyers with a 35-save shutout to put Montreal into sixth place. The Canadiens won for just the second time in seven games.

"If we get into the playoffs, it's a huge win. But if not, it's just a regular win," Halak said after his fourth shutout of the season. "We'll see how important a win it was in about a week from now."

Tomas Plekanec scored the game's only goal 9:25 into the first period. Halak made the lead stand up despite near-constant pressure by the Flyers as the game went on.

"He definitely made some key saves," Martin said. "He kept us in the game."

The Flyers lost for the seventh time in eight games -- as it turned out, they made the playoffs by beating the Rangers in a shootout on the final day of the season.



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