MONTREAL _ Flyers captain Mike Richards called it a “good old-fashioned ass kicking,” and no one would disagree.
Montreal was faster, more physical, better with the puck and hungrier as they defeated the visiting Flyers, 5-1, on Thursday and climbed off the canvas and back into the Eastern Conference finals.
"We knew they were going to come hard," goalie Michael Leighton said, "and obviously we didn't respond to it."
The Flyers lead the series, two games to one, but there are questions, lots of questions, that have arisen.
Such as: Do the Flyers have enough gas in the tank to reach the Stanley Cup Finals?
The Flyers seemed tired and disinterested right from the start.
That shouldn’t happen in a playoff game, but it’s easy to give the Flyers a pass. After all, this team has been playing full tilt ever since it fell into a three-games-to-none hole in the conference semifinals against Boston.
They were due for an emotional letdown.
But the disturbing part is this: The Flyers have not played well in the last two games.
In the Flyers’ 3-0 home win on Tuesday, Montreal had a territorial edge, but goalie Michael Leighton bailed out the orange and black.
The Flyers, who had their six-game winning streak snapped on Thursday, need to regroup and get back into desperation mode.
That’s not easy when you’re still ahead in the series, but the Flyers should focus on this: Montreal faced a 3-1 deficit against mighty Washington and won that quarterfinal series, so you don’t want to lose Saturday afternoon and give the Habs any more momentum.
The Flyers need to treat Saturday like it’s a must-win game.
They need to set the tone and play their first good opening period of the series.
They have been outshot, 46-21, in this series’ three first periods, and that should sound some alarms in Flyersville.
“This was a long way coming; we didn’t play all that well even in the first couple games. We relied heavily on our power play,” Richards said. “This was just a beatdown.”
“We’ve got to be more prepared,” said center Claude Giroux, who had a nasty cut on his lip, courtesy of Josh Gorges’ stick. “They just worked harder than us tonight.”
Asked if Thursday’s lopsided loss was a wakeup call, Richards said, “It better be. I’m not calling anyone out. It’s myself leading. It’s going out on the ice and playing for it, instead of just going out there and hoping.”
Defenseman Chris Pronger, who was minus-3 in one of his rare poor performances, was also critical of the team's effort.
"It was the same old, same old from the last four games," said Pronger, who was including the poor first period against Boston in Game 7 of the conference semifinals. "Until we get that ship righted and understand we need to play 60 minutes, it will be more of the same.