No. 8 Canadiens vs. No. 1 Flyers
8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NBCSP
Philadelphia leads best-of-7 series, 3-1
The Philadelphia Flyers can win a playoff series for the first time since 2012 with a victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday.
“Getting into the playoffs and winning one round is not our goal, but it’s our first step,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday. “Tonight, we get an opportunity to go out and play against a really good team and we’re going to have to play our best. We’ve been playing good, we’ve been working extremely hard and we’re going to have to bring it tonight.”
The Canadiens have been shut out the past two games, including 2-0 in Game 4 on Tuesday. But associate coach Kirk Muller said his message to the players is to put that result behind them and focus on winning one game.
“We’re not done,” he said. “We want to bring our A game here. This is one more test for our guys. This is tough; it’s going to be a tough game tonight. … This is where you have to learn how to dig in and you have to learn how to win hockey games. That’s the mentality and attitude we’re going to have today.”
Teams that have a 3-1 lead are 280-29 (90.6 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL series, including 2-0 in 2020.
1. Carter Hart starting again?
Hart has back-to-back shutouts and can become the first NHL goalie with three in a row in the playoffs since Ilya Bryzgalov with the Anaheim Ducks in 2006.
But he’s started games on consecutive days once in the NHL, Feb. 16-17, 2019. He played on consecutive days once this season, starting Dec. 14 and playing one period in relief of Brian Elliott on Dec. 15.
Hart said after Game 4 he wasn’t going to campaign to start Game 5.
“I don’t know what the plan is,” he said. “Not my decision if I play or not. If I do, great; if not, I know [Elliott] is more than capable.”
Vigneault split the starts in all 13 of Philadelphia’s back-to-back games this season and refused to say if Hart would start again in Game 5.
“Throughout the season those decisions I talk about with Kim [Dillabaugh], our goalie coach, on a daily basis,” Vigneault said. “How are the guys feeling? How are the guys looking? What’s the situation as far as energy level and mental focus? I’ve always tried to make the best possible decision for the team and that’s what I’m going to do tonight.”
2. More from Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher tied Tomas Tatar for the Canadiens regular-season lead with 22 goals, but during the postseason the forward has zero goals in eight games despite an NHL-best 34 shots on goal.
He played four shifts totaling 3:37 of ice time in the third period of Game 4.
“I’ve got to find a way here,” Gallagher said. “Whenever you’re out on the ice just take advantage of it. If the coach feels there are other guys that are going to do the job better than you, that’s his job. Doesn’t mean I sit there and accept it. My job is to play.”
Muller is confident that attitude will lead to a better result in Game 5.
“Gally is one of our best character guys on this team,” Muller said. “He plays hard, he cares. … I guarantee he’ll be ready to go tonight and he’s going to be a good hockey player. I’ve got full confidence in him as a player.”
3. First goal could decide the game
How important has the game’s first goal been? In eight postseason games, the Canadiens are 4-0-0 when scoring first and 0-4-0 when allowing the first goal.
The Flyers are 6-0-0 when scoring first during the postseason. The only game they didn’t score first was Game 2 against the Canadiens, a 5-0 loss.
Canadiens projected lineup
Tomas Tatar — Phillip Danault — Brendan Gallagher
Max Domi — Nick Suzuki — Jonathan Drouin
Artturi Lehkonen — Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Paul Byron
Alex Belzile — Jake Evans — Joel Armia
Ben Chiarot — Shea Weber
Brett Kulak — Jeff Petry
Victor Mete — Xavier Ouellet
Scratched: Charles Hudon, Ryan Poehling, Cale Fleury, Noah Juulsen, Gustav Olofsson, Christian Folin, Cayden Primeau, Michael McNiven, Jordan Weal, Dale Weise
Unfit to play: None
Flyers projected lineup
Michael Raffl — Sean Couturier — Jakub Voracek
Joel Farabee — Kevin Hayes — Travis Konecny
Claude Giroux — Derek Grant — Scott Laughton
Connor Bunnaman — Nate Thompson — Tyler Pitlick
Ivan Provorov — Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim — Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg — Justin Braun
Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Morgan Frost, Oskar Lindblom, James van Riemsdyk, Mark Friedman, Shayne Gostisbehere, Andy Welinski, Egor Zamula, Alex Lyon, Kirill Ustimenko
Unfit to play: None