Flyers deal with suspension, try to close out Habs
The Philadelphia Flyers will be looking to clinch their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series for their first playoff series win since 2012 when they battle the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 on Friday in Toronto.
The top-seeded Flyers fell 5-3 in Game 5 on Wednesday yet still hold a 3-2 lead in the series against the eighth-seeded Canadiens, who will be without forward Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the series due to a broken jaw. Montreal said Gallagher will require surgery.
Philadelphia's Matt Niskanen, who delivered the hit that injured Gallagher in Wednesday's contest, was suspended for one game by the NHL Department of Player Safety for cross-checking.
The Flyers are ahead in this series thanks in large part to second-year goaltender Carter Hart, who recorded back-to-back shutouts in Games 3 and 4.
But Philadelphia's offense has scuffled, managing only eight goals in the first five games.
"He's been playing extremely well," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said of Hart. "(Wednesday) there might be one or two he might want to have back, but at the end of the day, we have a lot of faith in him. He'll be fine next game."
The Flyers have to be encouraged with their power play, which clicked three times on Wednesday. Jake Voracek scored two of the power play goals. The Flyers hadn't scored three power plays in one playoff game since 2012 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Canadiens played very physical in Game 5 and appeared to anger the Flyers as well.
Halfway through, Nick Suzuki skated past Hart and tapped him on the head. It was part of a series of crazy sequences which included Niskanen knocking several teeth out of Gallagher's mouth with a cross check. Also, Philadelphia's Travis Sanheim was crunched against the boards with a questionable hit from Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
The NHL announced the discipline to Niskanen on Thursday night.
The Department of Player Safety released a video of the hit and said it ruled that discipline was necessary due to the "force of the blow and the fact the original intent was to deliver a forceful stick foul to the upper body of an opponent."
Meanwhile, Suzuki brushed off his tap on the Flyers' goalie.
"I didn't have any intentions," Suzuki said of the tap, which occurred after the Canadiens tied the game at 2. "I wasn't really thinking. I was just excited for the goal. It was just a reaction. ... I saw it on the replay and was thinking I probably shouldn't have done that. But it happened. I wasn't trying to be unsportsmanlike."
Before the injury, Gallagher scored to snap an eight-game slump on his 37th shot of the postseason.
"That's the Gally we love," Canadiens interim head coach Kirk Muller said. "And that's what he can bring to a team. He brought guys into the fight. He's a competitor, he's a proud player. He plays hard, he works for every goal he gets and I thought he had an exceptional game."
After consecutive shutouts, the Canadiens proved their mettle in Game 5. The key is to do it again to try and extend this series to a seventh game.
"This group is made up of some great character guys, great leaders," Muller said. "They could have come in here tonight and say: ‘Listen, you know, we're the underdogs. We came in, we could go home and people would probably say it was pretty successful.' But they're not complacent. They're not happy. They want to keep playing and they proved that."
If the Flyers can start quickly in Game 6, they'll have a solid shot of winning their first playoff series in eight years. The team that has scored first in this series has captured all five games.
"We have to get ready for a Game 6," Voracek said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We just have to keep working hard and got to earn those two match points."
Philadelphia's Sean Couturier played arguably his best game of the series with two assists and three hits.
--Field Level Media