The Flyers' first question on a night like this is simple enough:
Did someone get the number of that autobus?
Run over -- that is what happened to the Flyers on Thursday night in the Bell Centre. They arrived in Montreal with a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven conference final series against the Canadiens. They left the arena with only a 2-1 advantage, and with several loose molars.
Final score: Canadiens 5, Flyers 1.
That the Canadiens got a lot braver with every degree of latitude that they were able to put between themselves and the Wachovia Center was obvious enough. But they also got faster. What had been a one-sided series on the scoreboard -- the Flyers' had a 9-0 advantage in the first two games -- has now been completely turned on its head.
Chris Pronger and Matt Carle, the Flyers' top defense pair, had a particularly tough night. They were on the ice for all four Montreal goals. Pronger had not been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal since the first period of Game 3 of the Boston series -- more than seven full games overall, an amazing streak. But he had an especially egregious turnover that led to the Canadiens' second goal, a score by Tom Pyatt that had to be confirmed by a replay review because of the tangle of sticks and skates that the puck seemed to hit before going in. As for Carle, he appeared to be outmuscled in a couple of key spots.
The Canadiens had a ton of good scoring chances and decisively outshot the Flyers in the game. That said, Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton made some excellent saves. However, he also let in a puck that sneaked through his pads on Montreal's third goal by Dominic Moore.
Simon Gagne's spinaround goal at 8:22 of the third period finally got the Flyers on the scoreboard. It was the only puck they got past Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who made several big early saves -- two on Claude Giroux, and another on Ville Leino, to name three -- but was not taxed overall. After his first two games in the series, it was the kind of game he needed -- because he is still an enormous part of any success the Canadiens will hope to have.
Now, the key question for the Flyers will be this: how short are their memories?