Carter Hart, Flyers blank Canadiens to take 2-1 lead in first-round series


TORONTO — Carter Hart made 23 saves for his first-career playoff shutout as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 on Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.

Jakub Voracek scored for Philadelphia, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference as part of the NHL’s restart to its pandemic-hit season.

Carey Price stopped 19 shots to take the loss for Montreal inside an empty Scotiabank Arena.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven matchup goes Tuesday afternoon.

After the Flyers opened the scoring early in the first period, Montreal centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi hit the crossbar 30 seconds into the third — the fifth time the Canadiens found iron in just over 40 minutes.

Hart, who gave up four goals on 26 shots before getting pulled in the Canadiens’ emphatic 5-0 victory in Game 2, took an Artturi Lehkonen shot off the mask on a shorthanded 2-on-1 with under eight minutes to go in regulation.

Kotkaniemi shovelled a shot towards the Flyers’ net with Price on the bench for an extra attacker with 50 seconds left, but Hart was there again as Philadelphia improved to 34-0-2 this season when leading after two periods.

The Canadiens were coming off that Game 2 where they dominated the Flyers, who sat 18 points ahead of them in the standings when the NHL suspended its season because of COVID-19 in March, from start to finish minus head coach Claude Julien after he was rushed to hospital with chest pains Wednesday night.

The 60-year-old, who is resting at home and expected to make a full recovery, had a stent installed in one of his coronary arteries.

Perhaps looking to draw attention away from his team’s embarrassing performance Friday, Philadelphia head coach Alain Vigneault criticized Montreal associate coach Kirk Muller, who is running the bench in Julien’s absence, for putting his No. 1 power-play unit out in the dying minutes of a blowout.

The Flyers had a much better start Sunday against the speedy Canadiens after failing to register a shot until there was 3:36 left in the opening period of Game 2. Philadelphia nudged in front at 5:21 of the first following an offensive zone faceoff when Voracek redirected the puck up off himself and in past Price after Claude Giroux took the initial shot.

Montreal came close later in the period, with Kotkaniemi, who entered with four goals during the restart, whipping a shot off the post behind Hart before Brett Kulak blasted his effort off the crossbar seconds later.

The Canadiens then had to kill off a four-minute penalty to Kotkaniemi for high-sticking on former Montreal teammate Nate Thompson, and got some good fortune of their own when Travis Konecny found iron on a shot through a screen that stayed out.

Ranked 24th of 24 teams included in the resumption of play, the Canadiens didn’t have the same jump as in Game 2, but still had a number of chances in the second to get even.

Brendan Gallagher, who has yet to score during the restart, hit the outside of the post and then forced a good save out of Hart off a turnover.

The Flyers netminder then stopped Nick Suzuki with his glove on a Canadiens power play before the Montreal rookie hit another post on a shorthanded 2-on-1.

Jonathan Drouin then jumped on a Scott Laughton turnover, but Hart, who grew up idolizing Price, was there again to shut the door.

Notes: Flyers winger Oskar Lindblom was on the ice for Sunday’s morning skate — his first session with teammates since being diagnosed in December with Ewing’s sarcoma, a tumour that grows in the bones or in the tissue around bones. The 24-year-old Swede completed radiation treatments July 2. … Konecny dressed after taking a shot off his foot in Game 2.