The Flyers found themselves heading into tonight on the last game of a three-game road trip and limping along slowly with a five-game losing streak. The early spark of good Philadelphia sports vibes had pretty much disappeared, and the injury curse for this team was only growing more. It made sense. This team was never truly meant to be good this season, so reality was going to come crashing back down eventually.
However, the same story could have been said about the Montreal Canadiens. This is another team that no one expected to do well this season. After being the last-place team in 2021-2022, this is a group icing a crop of rookie defenseman, having to use goalies not named Carey Price, and they have a forward core that need to prove themselves after a down year. Yet, they got off to an early hot start as well.
Ties no longer exist in the NHL, though, so someone was going to have to come out victorious here.
Only 39 seconds in, Travis Sanheim got the jump with the opening goal. Yes, 39 seconds. Maybe it was just all the pent up energy after having to deal with a Canadiens opening ceremony that lasted nearly half an hour (though for a good cause, because they arranged a heartfelt moment for Hockey Fights Cancer by inviting young patients out onto the ice with them for the anthems). It also may have been the result of this being Montreal defenseman Mike Matheson’s first game all season, because he did absolutely nothing to stop Scott Laughton’s pass to Sanheim.
The clock hadn’t even hit the three-minute mark when Owen Tippett joined the goal-scoring party. Tippett had a clear shot right between the Montreal defensemen, and Joel Edmundson’s positioning especially made for a good screen to block Jake Allen from making what could’ve been a routine save.
The Canadiens seemed to be without defense, but they didn’t want to be without offense either. Christian Dvorak scored a little over a minute later with a tricky little poke into the net right next to Carter Hart.
The Flyers went onto the penalty kill when and chaos ensued. Sean Monahan was pushing and shoving the puck — and Hart’s leg — into the net, but the referees had to first determine whether the puck actually crossed the goal line. Once that was determined as a conclusive “yes,” John Tortorella challenged it for goaltender interference. Now, goaltender interference is fickle and no one really seems to understand it. Even knowing that, this was clearly an act of goaltender interference. Monahan only got the puck across the goal line because he shoved Hart’s leg in! What else could goaltender interference be if not that? If that goal hadn’t been overturned, this blogger probably would have flipped their laptop over.
The Flyers did themselves no favors after that goal was overturned, though. They earned a second penalty as Laughton was called for interference, and it gave the the Canadiens 34 seconds of 5-on-3 play. That was all the time the Canadiens needed as Cole Caufield blasted a shot from the left faceoff dot. An honorary assist should’ve gone to Nick Suzuki for the perfect screening and him jumping at just the right moment for the puck to get past Hart.
After what had started off as an electric period for the Flyers, the Canadiens managed to end it with everything evened up 2-2. It was almost as if both of these teams forgot they’re supposed to be tanking for Connor Bedard this season with the level of compete on display.
For the first half of the period, the game turned into a bit of a goaltending duel. There were multiple good opportunities on both ends of the ice, but Allen and Hart were good at stopping everything in their path. This wasn’t a battle between two good teams, meaning that the stalemate was going to break eventually. In a feel-good moment for Canadiens fans, it was Matheson who got the go-ahead goal playing his first ever game for his hometown team. Also, Suzuki continued to show that he’s good at hockey with a spin-o-rama move before passing the puck out to Matheson.
Because this game needed everything, it also needed the obligatory fight. Nic Deslauriers squared up against Arber Xhekaj, which were the two players you’d expect from both squads to get into a fight.
Arber Xhekaj and Nicolas Deslauriers throw some pic.twitter.com/o3XooKNSpG— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 20, 2022
Maybe that fight was good for something, though, because the Flyers tied it up with a goal that absolutely no one could have predicted. No one would have said before the game that Tippett would take a faceoff and win it by immediately shooting the puck past Allen for a goal. No one. Yet Tippett has been defying expectations. Hey, maybe something good came out of the Claude Giroux trade after all!
Once again, this was a period with a lot of fight between the two teams (quite literally at one point). Again, these teams are supposed to be tanking.
At the end of the second period, the Flyers found themselves with a 4-minute power play thanks to Matheson high-sticking Joel Farabee. Most of that power play occurred in the third, and guess what? Even with all that extended time, the Flyers’ power play still did nothing. Pretend to be shocked, everyone. Concerning, however, was that Laughton was slow to get up after a big hit and went up the tunnel, and he never returned for the rest of the game.
Even though the power play wasn’t successful, Kevin Hayes found a way to tie it back up during some 5-on-5 play. It was great to see from him considering that he had been demoted to the third line for some reason. Now, this blogger wouldn’t consider putting a point-per-game player on the third line, but this blogger isn’t a coach either.
Only being down a goal, the Canadiens eventually pulled Allen for the empty net. After an extremely extended amount of time in their own zone with the extra attacker, the Canadiens finally broke through with a single second left on the clock. It was, naturally, Caufield for his second of the game. Honestly, even though this highlight gives you the goal, the whole extended sequence for the final minute of the game was electric hockey, even if it didn’t go the Flyers’ way.
Now, when a game’s tied up at the last possible second, there’s only one place for it to go: extra hockey. Again, these teams are supposed to tanking. Instead, they managed to ensure they each got at least a point.
Overtime and Shootout
Since I said shootout in my header, sorry for spoiling it, but no one scored an overtime winner. It was a well-paced overtime, with both sides getting pressure and opportunities, but it just wasn’t long enough for anyone to get the job done.
In the shootout, the Canadiens sent out Caufield, Suzuki, and Dvorak, with Suzuki potting the lone goal. The Flyers sent out Tippett, Frost, and Hayes, and none of them scored. Frost almost had it, but he double-doinked it off the posts. With that, the Canadiens took the game.
Yes, the Flyers lost, but this was a fun one. Sometimes games between two not-great teams can be slogs, and the Flyers have had more than their fare share of those over the past couple seasons. It was actually nice to have a game that was just enjoyable to watch!
It’s also great to see players like Tippett really come into their own. Especially with Travis Konecny being out this game, people needed to step up. It wasn’t enough to secure the win. Oh well, the mission for Bedard continues on.