Flyers look to close door on Canadiens in Game 5

NHL Hockey

After a poor performance against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series, the Philadelphia Flyers and goaltender Carter Hart are one win away from advancing to the next round.

Philadelphia holds a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after its 2-0 win on Tuesday afternoon behind Cart’s 29-save shutout and goals by Michael Raffl and Phillippe Myers.

Game 5 between the two teams is set for 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena, the East’s hockey hub in Toronto. The meeting is the back end of back-to-back contests.

Flyers coach Alain Vigneault turned to backup goalie Brian Elliott in the middle contest of the three-game round-robin that ended with his club owning the No. 1 overall seed — despite entering the tourney as the No. 4 seed behind Boston, Tampa Bay and division rival Washington.

But Philadelphia ran the table on those three, outscoring the conference’s top trio by an 11-3 margin to secure the top seed.

Hart, who made 23 saves in Sunday’s 1-0 win, has been a prime reason for the Flyers’ postseason success.

Hart, at 22 years and three days old, became the youngest player in Philadelphia history to record a playoff shutout, eclipsing the previous mark held by Pete Peeters (22 years, 246 days).

The playoff shutout was the first by a Philadelphia goalie since Michal Neuvirth blanked the Capitals on April 22, 2016.

Hart’s victory Tuesday moved his playoff record to 5-1 and his save percentage to .958. He also became the third Flyers goalie to record consecutive playoff shutouts, joining Michael Leighton (2010) and Bernie Parent (1975).

Forward Jakub Voracek, who tallied the only goal the Game 3 victory, said the young netminder has a strong resilience and work ethic.

“He’s really strong mentally,” said Voracek, who assisted on Raffl’s marker. “He’s a young kid that works really hard. He’s pretty impressive with the way he bounces back, even since last year. If he has a bad game, he always comes back strong. I think that’s what good goalies do.”

The Sherwood Park, Alberta, native won seven straight starts from Feb. 18 to March 7 just before the NHL paused the regular season. Hart is victorious in 12 of his last 14 starts.

Connor Bunnaman and Joel Farabee drew into Philadelphia’s lineup in place of scratched forwards James van Riemsdyk and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

With associate coach Kirk Muller working the bench in place of Claude Julien (heart surgery), Montreal put together its best 60 minutes of the postseason and chased Hart in Friday’s 5-0 win in Game 2.

Muller tinkered with his lineup Tuesday and put Nick Suzuki on the top line between wingers Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher, but the Flyers’ defense allowed the Canadiens mostly long shots that were ineffective against Hart.

Oddly, Montreal holds a 6-5 lead in goals through the four matches.

Gallagher recorded three shots on Hart, but the feisty forward — a 22-goal scorer in 59 regular-season games — has put up 34 shots on goal without netting one in the postseason.

He and Jonathan Drouin sat on the bench most of the third period with Montreal down 2-0. Each played just two shifts in the first half of the final frame.

“I’m fine,” Gallagher said when asked about his health. “I guess if the coach feels other guys can do it better, that’s his job.”

–Field Level Media

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