Flyers

Twists, tussles (and Hart head taps?) as Flyers can't close out Habs in crazy Game 5

Flyers

If you wanted more goals and drama, your wish was granted.

The Flyers-Canadiens best-of-seven first-round playoff series had been mostly defensive through four games.

Game 5 was the opposite and had emotions boil over, to boot.

The Flyers could not hold Montreal down in a chaotic 5-3 loss Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The Flyers' series lead has been trimmed to 3-2.

Jakub Voracek scored two more goals and finished with three points, Joel Farabee netted the other, but the Flyers had lapses following the tallies as a testy Montreal team kept its postseason hopes alive.

• The second period was wild.

The third period said hold my beer.

Midway through the final frame, Farabee scored his power play goal to draw the Flyers even 3-3. The Canadiens, though, ripped the momentum right back only 22 seconds later as Nick Suzuki netted the game-winning goal as the Flyers were put on their heels in the defensive zone.

Suzuki, a talented 21-year-old center, was spectacular with a goal and an assist.

After being very technical over the past two games, the Flyers had their share of breakdowns and this was the most costly one.

Following the Canadiens' empty-net goal to seal the decision, a melee broke out. It had been building. There were a total of 67 penalty minutes in the game.

"It’s playoff hockey," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame in a video interview. "It’s hard-fought, there’s not a love in the air on the ice, guys are going at it and they're going at it hard."

 

• The middle stanza took twists and turns, making for a crazy period. It was just an appetizer to the third.

With the Canadiens holding a 1-0 lead, Jesperi Kotkaniemi made a contest-altering mistake when he crushed Travis Sanheim up high into the boards only 1:45 through the second frame. Sanheim was left bleeding from his face and the 20-year-old Kotkaniemi was given a five-minute major penalty for boarding as well as a game misconduct, finishing his night.

The hit looked like a potential series-deciding play as the Flyers went on a five-minute power play and Montreal lost its leading goal scorer in the playoffs for the remainder of the game. The Flyers capitalized on the gift from Kotkaniemi by stealing the lead with two power play goals from Voracek, giving him a postseason career high of four markers.

But credit to the Canadiens, who didn't fold with their playoff lives on the line. Montreal found a second wind and stormed back ahead with goals by Joel Armia (his second of the game) and Brendan Gallagher in a 1:18 span.

Philippe Myers, who was superb in Games 1-4, committed a costly double-minor high-sticking penalty, which led to Gallagher's man advantage goal. Gallagher swatted a pass out of midair and screamed in celebration. Gallagher, a two-time 30-goal scorer, had not tallied a marker in these playoffs before that one; he played with an edge all game.

Did the Flyers sense that Gallagher was playing a bit ticked off?

“No, he’s usually a pretty aggressive player," Matt Niskanen said. "Well, their season’s on the line, so I don’t expect him to loaf it out there. They played hard.”

• Following his consecutive shutouts, Carter Hart was cracked by the Canadiens. Hart was nearly pulled in the second period but a Vigneault coach's challenge (offside) overturned a Montreal tally, which kept the Canadiens' lead at 3-2 and, ultimately, kept Hart in the game.

Armia's second goal squeaked behind Hart's back from a side angle and may have gotten a piece of Ivan Provorov's stick. After the goal, Suzuki patted Hart on the head.

The Canadiens tapped Hart on the head on the overturned goal, as well.

Yep, the series has turned up a notch.

Not really any intention, I was just skating by and I wasn't really thinking, I was just excited for the goal. Nothing personal, just a reaction by me. I saw it in the replays, I was just thinking I probably shouldn't do that, but it happened. I wasn't trying to be unsportsmanlike, he's a real good goalie.

Suzuki postgame in a video interview

Hart finished with 28 saves.

"Tonight, there might be one or two there that he might want to have back," Vigneault said. "At the end of the day, we have a lot of faith in him, he’s played extremely well for us. He’ll be fine next game."

Carey Price, who had allowed only five goals through the first four games of the series, did not get much help from his skaters in front of him. The three goals he allowed were all from the Flyers' power play.

• Niskanen and Sanheim were burned and surprised by a hard bounce on a shorthanded goal that gave Montreal a 1-0 lead at first intermission.

 

The Flyers, in general, were not sharp after back-to-back shutouts in which they considerably closed up time and space for the quick Canadiens.

• For the second straight game, wingers Nicolas Aube-Kubel and James van Riemsdyk were scratched. The reasons for the absences have not been disclosed as Vigneault was unable to comment about their availabilities before the game, per the mutual agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to respect a player's medical privacy during this time.

Aube-Kubel could be banged up after blocking two big shots in the team's 1-0 Game 3 win last Sunday. It's also unknown if the scratching of van Riemsdyk is health or performance related. JVR was held out of the lineup for one of the three round-robin games and has played only 11:31 minutes per game, the second fewest on the team, during the tournament.

Here's how the Flyers looked at forward:

Michael Raffl-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek Joel Farabee-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny Claude Giroux-Derek Grant-Scott Laughton Connor Bunnaman-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick

• The series has been extended to Game 6 Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBC).

For the full series schedule, click here.