Mike Richards put it best in the Flyers' locker room after Game 3: "It was an old-fashioned ass-kicking." There is no other way to put the Flyers listless 5-1 loss into words.
After winning six emotional playoff games in a row to erase a 3-0 series deficit against the Boston Bruins and build a 2-0 series lead on the Canadiens, it was only a matter of time before the Flyers lost a game. What's bothersome is the way it happened. They were outworked, physically dominated, and sloppy in their own defensive zone. Hell, Chris Pronger was on the ice for FOUR Montreal 5 on 5 goals and finished the game -3. That's not going to cut it on any night, let alone an Eastern Conference Final game.
Michael Cammalleri received a fortuitous bounce on a missed slapshot to give Montreal the early 1-0 advantage and end Michael Leighton's shutout streak at just over 170 minutes. The puck bounced off the glass behind Leighton and came directly out the other side onto Cammalleri's stick, who put the puck into the open net. The Flyers only got worse as the opening period unfolded, and were lucky to escape down by two.
Unlike many other playoff games we've seen this year, the Flyers never recovered in the second. Domonic Moore slapped home a loose puck on a broken play 11:33 into the second to give Montreal a 3-0 lead. Brian Gionta all but sealed the deal with another Habs goal early in the third. Simon Gagne continued his surge, spoiling Halak's shutout halfway through the third.
Although the game was chippy throughout, tempers flared late in the game. Mike Richards let Jaroslav Spacek know that he didn't appreciate the treatment he was giving Danny Briere, which started a scrum that resulted in 20 penalty minutes. Scott Hartnell hammered Roman Hamrlik in an ensuing fight, setting the tone for the remainder of the series.
Halak stopped 25 of 26 shots in Game 3, but he was rarely tested. The Flyers never clogged the crease with traffic or employed the gameplan that won them the first two games of the series. Although Leighton allowed 5 goals tonight, he was hardly to blame. In fact, he kept the Flyers in the game after a 17 shot onslaught from the Canadiens in the first. The Flyers, specifically Chris Pronger and Matt Carle, did little defensively to help out Leights anyway.
Anyone who thought the Flyers were going to sweep must live under a rock. Montreal has been beyond resilient in the previous two rounds, already overcoming 3-1 and 3-2 series deficits to get to this point. Furthermore, a team isn't in trouble until they lose a game at home. For the first time in the NHL playoffs this year, the home team has won the first three games of the series. While the series would become too close for comfort if Montreal prevails Saturday, the Flyers will still hold home ice advantage (which has been a factor thus far).
The series resumes on Saturday at 3 PM on NBC. That's right, 3 PM. You suck Gary Bettman, the game should be on at 8 PM.