One tough town
PHILADELPHIA – The City of Brotherly Love and its cherished Flyers have been anything but affectionate towards the Canadiens in recent years. Such was the case again on Thursday night.
In a battle of two teams looking to redeem themselves after suffering tough losses in their most recent outings coming into the tilt, a travel-weary Flyers squad snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center.
In the aftermath of the Habs’ second straight loss, head coach Michel Therrien insisted his squad failed to take advantage of a Philadelphia team that had spent the last two weeks away from the friendly confines of their own building, and was still reeling from a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in the Windy City.
“It’s definitely a disappointing performance on our part. I was expecting our team to play with more fight, and we didn’t see that tonight,” offered Therrien, referencing the Canadiens’ inability to generate shots on goal and quality scoring chances in the opening frame when the Flyers were particularly vulnerable after landing in Philadelphia at 1:45 a.m. on game day. “I was expecting us to set the tone at the outset of the game and dictate play.”
That didn’t happen, as the Flyers outshot the Canadiens by a 9-4 margin through 20 minutes of play and 27-21 overall at the final buzzer. Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux tallied for Craig Berube’s contingent to put Philadelphia up 2-0, while Alex Galchenyuk registered his ninth goal of the year with 56 seconds remaining in regulation time to cut that lead in half.
Sharing in his head coach’s disappointment on Thursday night was defenseman Josh Gorges, who logged just over 21 minutes of ice time in the Canadiens’ ninth straight defeat in Eastern Pennsylvania, regular season and playoff games combined. The Habs last came out on top in Philadelphia in April 2010.
“For whatever reason, we just weren’t playing the way that we were supposed to play in the first period. This is a Flyers team that played last night. We should have jumped all over them and taken control of the game,” underlined Gorges. “Again, we got ourselves behind the eight ball. I thought as the game went on we did play better, but it’s too tough in this league to try and come from behind and scratch one out.
“[Their goals] were a by-product of the way that we were playing,” added the veteran rearguard. “When you’re not quick on pucks, you allow players time and space. We were just giving them too much room early.”
The Habs’ task on this night was further complicated by the loss of defenseman Alexei Emelin, who received a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct at the 16:15 mark of the second period after coming into contact with Flyers forward Steve Downie. That forced the Canadiens to play the remainder of the contest with just five defensemen against a Flyers team that was gaining momentum with every passing shift.
Having watched his team struggle to light the lamp over the last two outings, Therrien knows full well where adjustments need to be made in order to get back on the winning track.
“Our work ethic is what will get us through this stretch. We’re not throwing enough pucks at the opposing team’s net. When we don’t put pucks on net, we don’t get secondary scoring chances,” confided Therrien, whose squad will do battle with the Flyers in Philadelphia again on January 8. “It will take a lot of intensity on offense to get ourselves out of this hole. It’s been two games that I’ve been noticing that we need to up our offense a notch.”
The Canadiens will have a chance to do just that on Saturday night when they wrap up their two-game road swing against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.