Sharp goaltending powers Canadiens into matchup vs. Flyers
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Though the Montreal Canadiens have allowed just four goals during a season-high four-game winning streak, a better defensive effort might be required when they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
The Canadiens' streak has been carried by goaltenders Carey Price and Antti Niemi. After Montreal outshot the Colorado Avalanche 31-28 in a 3-0 shutout victory for Price on Jan. 12, the Canadiens have been outshot by a 131-76 margin over their last three games.
A 52-save gem from Niemi highlighted Montreal's 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, and Price turned in two more strong outings in the other two victories. Price made 34 saves Friday as the Canadiens (27-17-5) notched a 4-1 win at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus held a 35-26 shots advantage over the Canadiens, although Montreal head coach Claude Julien liked how his team limited the Blue Jackets' chances down the stretch.
"There's a lot of good things I saw tonight as far as doing the things you need to do to beat certain teams. ... I liked the way our team handled the third period," Julien said. "We didn't stop playing; we didn't give them much. We closed the play quickly, we got pucks in deep and we were doing the right things."
It isn't unusual for Price to start on consecutive nights, although the Canadiens may be more likely to give the red-hot Niemi another turn in net Saturday. Niemi has a .953 save percentage and three wins in his past three starts.
Philadelphia also overcame a shooting disadvantage in its most recent victory. The Flyers managed just 19 shots to the Boston Bruins' 42 shots on Wednesday, but still eked out a 4-3 win.
After Saturday, the Flyers don't play again until Jan. 28 due to their scheduled bye week and the NHL's All-Star break. The Flyers (18-23-6) are in last place in the Metropolitan Division, although after three wins in four games, Philadelphia is looking for all the positive momentum it can find as the team tries to get into the playoff race.
"It definitely wouldn't be easy to make the playoffs, but you win a few in a row and that changes quick," captain Claude Giroux said.
"One game makes a huge difference. We've going to play Montreal there, and we go in the break with three wins in a row, or we've lost one. It's a mindset to kind of look at the small picture and just go game by game."
Philadelphia center Sean Couturier provided the bulk of the offense against the Bruins, recording the first regular-season hat trick of his NHL career. Couturier has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his past five games.
Carter Hart is expected to start for the Flyers on Saturday. The rookie goaltender had a career-best 39 saves in the win over Boston and owns a 2.72 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in his first 11 NHL games.
This will be the first of three meetings between the teams this season. The Canadiens are 0-2-2 in their past four games against the Flyers.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 18, 2019