The Philadelphia Flyers were dealt some devastating news during the evening, but the Eastern Conference leaders were still able to win their seventh game in a row, with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre Thursday night.
Word came out earlier in the evening via Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos that captain Chris Pronger may miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs with post concussion symptoms, which was confirmed with an official announcement from the Flyers early in the first period.
In the wake of the loss of their anchor blueliner, it was a telling sign from a resilient group that two defensemen stepped up and made big offensive contributions. Pronger's usual defensive partner, Matt Carle, had another big night, assisting on three of Philly's goals. Carle has now notched points in four consecutive contests, recording a goal and seven points during that stretch.
Four separate times the Flyers took a one-goal lead on the home team, and three times the Canadiens fought back to tie the game. Already missing the NHL's leading scorer in Claude Giroux, the club again went about scoring by committee -- four different goal scorers, and 10 different skaters registered a point.
With the game tied, 3-3, heading towards the midway point of the third period, Andrej Meszaros' point shot found its way through a mass of humanity as well as Montreal starter Carey Price, for the eventual game-winner. It was just Meszaros' third goal of the season, but his second GWG.
Max Talbot opened the scoring at 12:07 of the first period, snapping a one-timer from the left circle past Price off a beautiful pass from Jakub Voracek from behind the net. Talbot's ninth of the year staked Philadelphia to a 1-0 lead, and gave the first year Flyer one more goal than he scored in 82 games last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Just over five minutes into the second period, David Desharnais skated around the net and out in front, waiting for Bobrovsky to make the first move, and outlasted the Russian goalie. Desharnais waited for Bobrovsky to go down to the ice before shooting the puck high into the net for his fifth of the campaign, tying the game at 1-1.
Harry Zolnierczyk scored just 46 seconds later, diving to knock the puck past Price for his second goal of the year, and first since his initial NHL game.
Montreal again tied it up, with Louis Leblanc getting the first of his career on a fortunate bounce. A centering pass from Michael Blunden hit off of Kevin Marshall's glove and bounded right to Leblanc just to the right of Bobrovsky, and the rookie put the puck in the net with a one-timer.
Wayne Simmonds scored at 18:10 of the second, and it was only mustered through the sheer determination of the 23-year-old winger. He made a strong move from behind the net and got a couple of whacks at the puck, knocking it through Price. Tonight marked his fourth game in a row that Simmonds has tallied a goal, a career high. It was his ninth goal of the year, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
The next goal was scored by Les Habitants Erik Cole who redirected the puck with his skate just past Bobrovsky and inside the post. It was Cole's 12th goal of the season, and knotted the game at 3-3 heading into the final period to set up Meszaros' heroics.
Bobrovsky got his first start since November 26th, breaking a streak of six straight contests for Ilya Bryzgalov, and improved his record to 6-2-1 for the season. He made 30 saves, including Tomas Plekanec on a breakaway in the first period.
Price stopped 21 of 25 shots and fell to 12-9-7, losing his first regulation game in his last eight decisions. He had been 3-0-4 in the previous seven.
While the Flyers continued as the League's version of the Road Warriors, improving their NHL leading road record to 12-3-1, Montreal dropped to below .500 at home, and are now 5-6-6.