Now with just over a week remaining in the regular season, the two points up for grabs in this game are vital to the playoff aspirations for these two teams tied in the standings.
The Flyers and Canadiens try to break out of their funks and pick up an important win Friday night at the Wachovia Center.
Philadelphia, Montreal and Boston all have 82 points to hold down the East’s final three playoff spots, and they lead ninth-place Atlanta by two points. The Flyers (38-32-6) currently hold the tiebreaker with a game in hand on the Canadiens (37-32-8) and Bruins, and two on the Thrashers.
This is the final regular-season meeting between Philadelphia and Montreal, and neither team has remaining games against Boston and Atlanta.
Philadelphia and Montreal have had several chances to create some separation in the standings recently, but also have squandered nearly all of those opportunities. The Flyers are just 1-5-1 while the Canadiens are 1-3-2 since March 20.
Philadelphia is coming of a particularly discouraging loss, falling to Islanders 6-4 on Thursday, snapping a 15-game winning streak against New York.
The Flyers were never really in the game against the Islanders, allowing three goals in the game’s first eight minutes, and trailing 4-0 just over three minutes into the second period.
“We didn’t play our best,” said Briere, who ended an eight-game goal-scoring drought with his 25th. “At this time of year, we have to be ready for every game.”
The Canadiens are also coming off a disappointing defeat to one of the East’s poorer teams, losing 2-1 to Carolina on Wednesday.
“We were ready to play, we all knew the importance of this game going into it,” said Carey Price(notes), who fell to 0-2-1 with a 2.97 goals-against average in four March starts. “For the majority of the game we played really well. We carried the game, we just didn’t get rewarded for it.”
Struggling to score has been the story of the Canadiens’ recent slump, as they’ve managed just seven goals in their last five losses. Montreal had similar offensive woes in losing both games of a home-and-home series to the Flyers in mid-February, scoring two goals in each.
The slumping offense is making things difficult for Jaroslav Halak(notes), who is 1-2-1 in his last four starts, despite a 1.97 GAA. Halak, who is 7-2-1 with a 2.03 GAA in 10 games since the Olympic break, stopped only 12 of 17 shots in his only start of the season against the Flyers, a 6-2 home loss on Feb. 13.