Max Pacioretty, who wasn't even supposed to be in the lineup due to a torn ligament in his right wrist, scored two goals and added an assist, and Carey Price recorded the 100th win of his career, as the Montreal Canadiens blew out the Philadelphia Flyers in their first home win of the year, 5-1.
The Habs had lost their first five games at the Bell Centre (0-3-2) this season, and had just one overall victory in eight games. Those totals were good enough to earn Montreal last place in the Eastern Conference coming into tonight's action.
With all of the pressure mounting on the team in the Mecca of Hockey, assistant coach Perry Pearn was fired about an hour prior to game time. Complicating matters was the fact that the Flyers were a perfect 3-0-0 away from the Wells Fargo Center, playing their best hockey of the season as an early version of the Road Warriors.
The way the night started out, it looked like things would continue the same way for both clubs. Philadelphia winger Jaromir Jagr, who scored his first two goals of the season against Toronto on Monday night, opened the scoring midway through the first. Jagr took a pass from defenseman Matt Carle at the right faceoff circle and had half of the net in which to shoot, making no mistake in beating Price.
The Flyers carried much of the territorial play, but couldn't add to their lead. It would come back to haunt them late in the stanza.
Andreas Lilja interfered with Erik Cole as he attempted to enter the Philadelphia zone with 1:20 remaining, giving Montreal a power play. Just when it appeared the Flyers would head to the locker room with a 1-0 lead, Yannick Weber launched a slap shot from the blue line that sailed past a screened Ilya Bryzgalov with just 2.6 seconds left.
Weber's second of the season seemed to change the very landscape of the game. The difference in the geographic location in which the majority of play was being conducted in the second period swung in Montreal's favor.
The 1-1 tie lasted midway through regulation time, but it was then that the Habs took the lead for good. In a netmouth scramble in front of Bryzgalov, Wayne Simmonds tried to kick the puck away from the Flyers' crease. Instead, it hit Andrei Kostitsyn in the shin pad as he skated towards the net, then deflected off of his skate and slipped through Bryzgalov's five-hole for a 2-1 Montreal lead. There was definitely no distinct kicking motion by Kostitsyn in netting his third of the year, and video replay confirmed as much when officials reviewed the play.
The Flyers came close to tying the game shortly thereafter. Claude Giroux fed Simmonds in front and his redirection of the pass beat Price, but hit the post of the gaping cage and stayed out.
As is the case many times, a missed chance at one end can spark a team to score at the other.
Pacioretty was the benefactor of a point shot taking a favorable bounce off of a leg in front of the Flyers' net, as he was johnny-on-the-spot at Bryzgalov's left to knock the puck home for a 3-1 lead.
Early in the third, Montreal again took advantage of Philly's sloppy play in their own zone, with Pacioretty again doing the honors. After a bad turnover, Pacioretty put a Tomas Plekanec rebound over a sprawling Bryzgalov for his second of the night and fourth of the season.
Mike Cammalleri closed out the scoring late in the third, as Danny Briere turned the puck over trying to skate it out of the Philadelphia defensive zone, but was stripped by Cole, who flipped the puck behind the Flyers' net. David Desharnais retrieved the loose puck and sent a pass to Cammalleri, who scored his third of the year after being left all alone in front of Bryzgalov.
Price was solid as he stopped 21 of 22 Flyers' shots in posting the 100th win of his career.
With the absence of Chris Pronger's calming presence on defense, the amount of Philadelphia turnovers and blown defensive zone coverage proved to be terminal. The result was Bryzgalov being left to fend for himself for much of the evening. The first-year Flyer made 23 saves on 28 Canadiens' shots, as he suffered his fourth consecutive loss (0-3-1).
The Flyers, who have now lost three of their last four contests in regulation time, are in a bind regarding their defensemen with Pronger out. Lilja and Matt Walker, who were basically taking turns being inserted into the lineup based on who had made the least amount of mistakes in recent games when Pronger was playing, are both on the club's blueline.
With the team at the upper end of the salary cap, there is no cap room with which to recall either Oskars Bartulis or Erik Gustafsson from the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL. Either Bartulis or Gustafsson would provide more stability than Walker or Lilja have done thus far.
Pronger is expected to miss at least two to three weeks with the eye injury he sustained when hit by Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski's stick on the winger's follow through on a shot attempt on Monday night.
Montreal had an eventful day. Pearn was fired before the game, and there was definitely a message sent; Pacioretty was expected to be out of the lineup with a torn ligament in his wrist and not only played, but scored two goals and added an assist; and Price recorded his 100th career victory. All just in a night's work in picking up home win number one.
It appears the message sent in the Pearn firing was received - loud and clear.
For more on the game from the Montreal perspective, check in with Canadiens blog Habs Eyes On The Prize. For more on the game from the Philadelphia perspective, check in with SB Nation Philly and Flyers blog Broad Street Hockey.