The Philadelphia Flyers
’ postseason problem has been holding onto leads. Martin Biron
and R.J. Umberger
made sure they didn’t blow another one.
The Flyers, who’ve seen three two-goal leads — including a 2-0 advantage in Game 1 — turn into losses in the playoffs, got 34 saves from Biron in a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at the Bell Centre that evened their Eastern Conference semifinal series at one win each.
"We're just glad to get a split out of here," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I knew Montreal was going to play better. Marty was probably going to have to be our best player — and he was.”
Umberger and Jeff Carter gave the Flyers a two-goal advantage less than 10 minutes into the game, and Daniel Briere’s goal late in the second period proved to be the game-winner, giving the Flyers their first victory over the Canadiens in six meetings this season. Umberger added an insurance goal with 2:21 remaining in regulation.
Biron and his defense did the rest. He allowed only a first-period power-play goal to Montreal captain Saku Koivu and a 4-on-4 goal to Andrei Markov early in the third period.Philadelphia also blocked 23 shots, including five each by defensemen Lasse Kukkonen and Kimmo Timonen.
“A couple of bounces went against us in the last game and this time a couple went our way — that was the difference," Biron said.
The series moves to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Wednesday.
For the second straight game, Umberger opened the scoring — but unlike his goal in Game 1, this one was no fluke. The Flyers cycled effectively in the right circle before Umberger picked up the puck from Jim Dowd and whipped a 20-foot wrist shot that caught Carey Price back in his net and zipped high into the short side at 5:53.
And, as they did in the opener, the Flyers quickly added to their lead. This time, Carter took a pass from Joffrey Lupul, carried below the right faceoff dot and snapped a shot that sent the water bottle flying for a power-play goal and a 2-0 margin at 8:39.
"I think Carey said he could have played better," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "Three goals on 13 shots, that's not what we've seen from him in the past.
"But those first two goals were good shots. We had open nets and missed them, but a good player makes his own luck and Biron was good."
The Canadiens mustered little offense through the first 11 minutes. They had a good chance with 8:40 left in the period, but Biron gobbled up a wrist shot by Mathieu Dandenault, who was in the box for Carter’s goal.
Montreal got its first power-play chance with six minutes left when Philadelphia was called for too many men after a bad line change. Fifty-two seconds later, Braydon Coburn was penalized for roughing, giving Montreal a two-man advantage. The Canadiens didn’t connect on the two-man edge, but got on the board during the 5-on-4 power play when Koivu banked the puck off the boards to himself behind the Flyers’ net and stuffed it inside Biron’s left post before the goaltender could get back.
Biron preserved the lead with just over two minutes left in the period when he stopped Bryan Smolinski’s 15-foot wrist shot after the veteran center stepped around the defense. Smolinski then knocked the rebound wide with three Canadiens storming the net. The Canadiens wound up with a 16-7 lead in shots on goal, though they trailed on the scoreboard.
Philadelphia had the best early chance in the second period, but Price stopped Umberger’s 10-footer on a 2-on-1 break with Carter. A minute later, Biron got a toe on Alex Kovalev’s wide-open wrist shot from the slot.
Koivu had a good chance to tie the game with 7:30 left in the period when he weaved his way down the right side and worked his way below the faceoff dot, only to have Biron get a pad on his quick wrist shot.
The Flyers regained their two-goal lead at 13:33. Briere took a pass from Vaclav Prospal, broke down the right side in the Montreal zone, cut past Markov and backhanded the puck past Price to put Philadelphia ahead 3-1. It was Briere’s seventh of the playoffs, tying him with Detroit’s Johan Franzen for the postseason lead.
Tomas Plekanec, who has never scored a goal against Philadelphia, had the best chance of his career with just over five minutes remaining when he picked off Derian Hatcher’s point-to-point pass at the Montreal blue line and went in alone. But Biron, exuding confidence, snapped up Plekanec’s backhander with his catching glove and held it for a faceoff.
Biron then put on a goaltending exhibition during a late Montreal power play, making four sensational saves in less than 30 seconds. Included was a glove stop on Plekanec’s rebound try following a save on Markov that had the second-year forward talking to himself and the Canadiens shaking their heads — they were down two goals despite a 29-16 advantage in shots.
The Canadiens needed a goal early in the third period — and they got one at 1:26 while the teams were skating 4-on-4. Markov raced down from the left point and found himself alone when Chris Higgins’ cross-ice pass arrived. The All-Star defenseman buried it for his first of the playoffs.
Montreal threatened during a mid-period power play, with Higgins rattling the post with a rocket from the slot. But the Flyers regained control of the tempo and put the game away at 17:39 when Price was careless in going out to glove Scottie Upshall’s floating backhander. Umberger swatted at the puck to keep Price from catching it, then took a backhander that banked into the net off the rookie goaltender’s back.
"I wasn't easy," Briere said of the win. "I liked the way we didn't sit back this time. We kept up the pressure on them in the third period.
“Marty was amazing. You won't get anywhere without a good goalie and he's certainly pulling his weight. And with what he's going through with his wife giving birth (on April 14 to a daughter), it must be hectic at home, but he's been so focused on the ice."
Biron said the Flyers played more like the team that outlasted Washington in a seven-game series in the opening round.
"Last game, we had a 3-2 lead and then they got that (tying goal)," Biron said of Game 1. "But tonight, we played with the desperation we had (in the first round) against Washington.
"We didn't play our best hockey, but we played well enough to get it done. A lot of their shots came off the power play. They've got a great attack with sometimes five guys coming up the ice."
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.