The Canadiens celebrate a goal in the Flyers' 4-1 loss on Saturday. (USA Today Images)
Updated: 11:57 p.m.
MONTREAL -- Initially, it was a tight, competitive game in which every ounce of energy seemed spent on puck battles.
No matter how defensively sound you were, there was nothing tangible to see on the scoreboard that showed any kind of reward after two periods.
Goals were again nowhere to be found for the Flyers.
Yet, instead of a climatic final period at Bell Centre against the Canadiens, the entire game disintegrated inside of 12 seconds amid what would be a penalty-filled stanza that turned something positive for the Flyers into a 4-1 Canadiens rout.
Already trailing 1-0, the Flyers were dealt a crushing blow winning a neutral zone faceoff, then Wayne Simmonds falling and losing the puck.
Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher fired a shot wide of the net and the carom came off the back boards at a weird angle right onto Lars Eller’s stick for a backhander in which goalie Ray Emery didn’t have a chance.
That made it 2-0. The goal rattled the Flyers because the game fell apart immediately after.
“They came out 3-on-2 right off the hop and that shouldn’t happen,” defenseman Nick Grossmann said. “Then [the puck] bounced off the wall and bad rebound. Just bad execution off the faceoff. It shouldn’t happen.”
Added Vinny Lecavalier, who was also on the ice for that goal: “It was a big goal for them. But we were on the ice a lot and it broke our momentum from the beginning.”
Minutes later, Gallagher made it 3-0 during a two-man Habs power-play advantage.
Lecavalier, who to that point had the Flyers' only decent power-play chances -- let alone shots -- got it back on the power play with a rebound off a Mark Streit shot, but it wasn’t enough.
So, the Flyers, who talked about the importance of getting off to a quick start this season, are 0-2 going into Sunday afternoon’s game in Carolina.
Is it too early to call Game No. 3 a “must-win" for coach Peter Laviolette’s club?
“We gotta relax a little bit; every game is important,” Max Talbot said. “[Sunday] is a big game, but it is just three games into the season. Two games played already. Let’s just focus on [Carolina].”
What impaled the Flyers in this one was 13 penalties for 32 minutes, of which seven came in the decisive third period.
“It seemed the first two periods, every time we got going 5-on-5 it lasted about two to three minutes and then the penalty killers went back on the ice,” Laviolette said. “After they scored the goal to start the third, the penalties happened and we lost our composure.
“It unraveled from there. We’re not going to win a lot of hockey games if we go to the box as much as we did tonight.”
All that penalty killing sapped the Flyers' energy to do anything even strength.
“We’re taking too many of them, losing momentum and guys don’t get into the game and I have myself to blame for taking a couple bad ones (two stick penalties),” Grossmann said.
Eight calls were obstruction or stick fouls.
Meanwhile, the Flyers power play, which was third best in the NHL last season, is just 2 for 12. Lecavalier has the club’s only power-play goal (1 for 5) while the Flyers don’t have an even-strength goal yet.
“You look at the first game, we had a lot of chances and couldn’t score,” Lecavalier said. “Tonight a lot of penalties and tough to get that flow. We lost our momentum. We want to eliminate a few [of these].
“Maybe a few weren’t great calls, but it’s part of the game. Same thing the other way. We have to stay more disciplined with stick penalties. Get more momentum and more 5-on-5 chances.”
Unlike the season opener against Toronto, the Flyers got off to a very ragged, sloppy start and had to kill off consecutive penalties, including five seconds of a Habs 5-on-3 power play.
How ironic then that Montreal’s only goal in the first period came shortly after at even strength on a nice play at the net from Rene Bourque.
Luke Schenn was caught chasing the puck behind the Flyers' net when Bourque slid a perfect pass through the goal crease to the waiting Brian Gionta for an easy tip-in past Emery at 8:10.
Schenn’s partner, Streit, was late covering in the slot on Gionta at the post.
The second period saw most of it played in the Flyers' own end and directly in front of Emery.
It's hard to say which team was worse at finding the net -- the Flyers or Canadiens? There were too many shots high or wide on both sides, and several 4-on-4 situations, as well.
Before it was over, the Flyers were back on the penalty kill with Claude Giroux making a fancy between-the-legs move on a semi-breakaway to get a shorthanded chance on Price with 65 ticks left in the period.
Hands down, that was the Flyers' best chance. How apropos they were shorthanded, too.
“At the end of two periods, it was pretty tight defensively,” Laviolette said. “I just think if we play a cleaner game, we can roll the lines a little more, keep the flow and not wear out the penalty killers, and have certain guys sitting so long on the bench.
“Eventually, if you get enough opportunities on the power play, you will score.”