Hidden Game: Surging Canadiens beat Flyers for third straight win

Cayden Primeau falls short of his third shutout, but “you don’t play for a shutout,” he says.

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We’re going out on a limb and suggest a playoff series between the Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers would be a thing of beauty.

Alas, it won’t occur this season.

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Between the coincidental roughing minors assessed to Arber Xhekaj and Scott Laughton at the end of the first period, Jayden Struble and Owen Tippett mixing it up early in the second period, or the teams milling about at centre ice and doing plenty of jawing against each other at the end of that period, it seems these teams don’t particularly like one another.

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Besides, the ink-stenched wretches of the fifth estate would love listening to voluble Philadelphia head coach John Tortorella for a potential seven-game series.

Great moments in NHL scheduling: The Flyers return to the Bell Centre for the second time in less than two weeks on April 9.

It only took 72 games: The Canadiens have now won three straight for the first time this season.

Play ball: In honour of the opening day of the Major League Baseball season, we salute Canadiens’ goaltender Cayden Primeau, who made a glove save in the game’s ninth minute on Laughton with Philadelphia on the power play.

News you need (Part I): The shot by Laughton, at precisely 8:18, was the Flyers’ last one until Erik Johnson’s slapper was stopped by Primeau with 2:10 remaining. Fortunately, Primeau managed to remain awake.

Wake up: Through 11 minutes of this contest, the Canadiens had two shots at Samuel Ersson.

Who needs shots anyways: Montreal opened the scoring on its third shot, a power-play goal by Nick Suzuki, at 12:58.

Pass of the night: Juraj Slafkovsky to Suzuki, who was left alone at the side of the net, scoring easily.

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Milestone: It was Suzuki’s 30th goal this season, the first time in his career he has reached that plateau. He becomes the first Canadiens’ 30-goal scorer since Brendan Gallagher produced 33 during the 2018-19 season.

News you need (Part II): Slafkovsky, the first overall draft choice last season, now has a nine-game point streak for the first time in his career — and likely not the last.

The slump is over: Jesse Ylönen scored the Canadiens’ second goal at 16:46 of the opening period, converting a rebound in front. It was his first goal in 44 games after he scored twice against Vegas back on Nov. 16.

News you need (Part III): This is what Montreal has accomplished in the first period of its last three games: 4-0 against Seattle; 2-1 over Colorado and 2-0 versus the Flyers. Maybe this team isn’t that far away from contending after all?

Dumb penalty: Colin White’s second-period slash on Laughton wasn’t necessary.

In other penalty news: It was a trifecta for Xhekaj. Slashing and roughing in the first period and hooking in the third.

Play Pezzetta: We thought it was a mirage at first but, yes, that was Pezzetta killing a penalty in the second period. We live for the day head coach Martin St. Louis utilizes him on the power play.

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Game of inches: Struble hit the post in the final minute of the second period, denying the Canadiens’ a three-goal advantage.

Terry Baker would have missed, wide right: The Flyers appeared to score their first goal early in the third period. However, following a video review, it was determined Garnet Hathaway kicked the puck in.

Sometimes the hockey gods are on your side: At 5:48 of the same period, Philadelphia again appeared to score. But St. Louis challenged the apparent goal by Morgan Frost and it was determined Tyson Foerster was offside on the play.

And sometimes, they’re not: Suzuki batted a puck out of mid-air at 11:49, past Ersson. But the potential third Canadiens goal was disallowed after a video review determined he scored with the stick over his shoulders.

Tim Horton would have been proud: Before he went into the coffee business, the late defenceman, built like a fire hydrant, was renowned for hip checks. Xhekaj delivered a classic one on Joel Farabee in the third period.

News you need (Part IV): Tippett’s goal with 61 seconds remaining in regulation time was the first score allowed by Primeau on home ice in 178:43. He was this close to his third shutout this season. With 29 stops, his save percentage was .967.

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Stat of the night: Canadiens defenceman David Savard blocked seven shots.

Next time, decline the penalty: The Flyers went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.

They said it: “You don’t play for a shutout,” Primeau said. “They’re nice when you get them but that’s not why you play. It would have been nice to get one but a win is just as nice.

“The hockey gods were on my side a little bit,” he added. “It’s nice to lead the game instead of chase it.”

“That’s always our goal, to just keep building,” said Mike Matheson, who had three assists along with a team-high 25:04 of ice time. “We’ve been playing some really good teams in the last little while. For a stretch there we weren’t getting wins but it felt like we were still playing well. It’s nice to start getting those wins, too, just for confidence and for better things to come.”

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