PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Danny Briere made Montreal wish he was on its side one more time.
Whether spurning a free agent contract offer or scoring the winning goal in a playoff game, Philadelphia’s star center finds a way to stick it to the Canadiens.
Now Briere and the Flyers are one win from ending Montreal’s season.
Briere scored the winner on a power play with 3:38 left and Martin Biron stopped 36 shots to lift Philadelphia to a 4-2 victory Wednesday night and a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Flyers, the worst team in the NHL last season, can eliminate the top-seeded Canadiens in Game 5 on Saturday night in Montreal.
“We have to find a way to get it done,” Briere said. “We have to go in there with a mind-set that it’s Game 7.”
Briere found a way by knocking a rebound past rookie goalie Jaroslav Halak, who making his first career postseason start, for his eighth goal of the postseason that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Biron held off the Canadiens the rest of the way and the versatile R.J. Umberger scored into an empty net in the final seconds, his second goal of the game.
“He’s a man without a home really,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “I move him all over the place and I do it for the good of the team. That’s what makes him so valuable.”
The Flyers want to avoid a repeat of their first-round series against Washington, when they took a 3-1 lead and didn’t clinch until a Game 7 overtime victory.
“This is far from over, we have to realize it,” Briere said. “I know they are not going to quit.”
Biron was strong again in goal for the Flyers except for that one minute in the third period.
While the Canadiens can’t settle on a No. 1 goaltender, Biron proved again he’s capable of carrying the Flyers into May—and possibly beyond.
“When things are going good, people want to give you flowers,” he said. “When things are going bad, heads up. The vase is coming.”
Plekanec spoiled the shutout with a deflection into the net and Koivu knocked in a rebound that tied the score and silenced the rowdy crowd.
Briere saved the Flyers again, much like he did the entire series against Washington.
Now it’s back to Montreal where he was voraciously jeered because he rejected Montreal’s contract offer to sign with the Flyers. Briere said all he wanted to think about was the next game.
Coach Guy Carbonneau hoped a goalie switch would get the Canadiens going in this series. He benched rookie Carey Price and started Halak. It didn’t work.
The 20-year-old Price has an .853 save percentage in the last three games, but was outstanding in the regular season and in the first round against Boston.
The Canadiens sent pending free agent Cristobal Huet to Washington at the trade deadline for a draft pick, trusting Price to become the No. 1 goalie.
Price was pulled after he allowed three goals in the first two periods of Philadelphia’s 3-2 Game 3 victory. Halak, who stopped 22 shots, hadn’t started since March 29 at Toronto.
“He was good, obviously not good enough, but he is in a tough situation,” Carbonneau said of Halak.
Umberger has scored in all four games of this series, and has a point in five of six straight games dating to the first round against Washington. Not a bad stat line for a wing who started the postseason on the fourth line.
Umberger had some help in the second period from Briere, the Flyers’ leading postseason goal scorer. Briere fed Umberger a sharp, cross-ice pass to the left circle and he beat Halak on the short side to make it 1-0 early in the second. Umberger has six goals this series.
Scott Hartnell made it 2-0 early in the third when he pounded home Vaclav Prospal’s shot that bounced off the post. Prospal set up the goal when he intercepted Bryan Smolinki’s pass in front of Philadelphia’s bench.
The Flyers have scored the first two goals of the game all four games of the series.
“They always say having a two-goal lead is the worst lead to have,” Briere said. “Once again, we got that little letdown for a quick second and they were right back in it.”
The Flyers took two shots in the first two minutes of the game, then barely got near Halak. The Flyers put little pressure on him, taking only seven shots in the opening period. He did knock away their best attempt when he stopped Jeff Carter on a short-handed breakaway attempt about six minutes into the first.
Biron snared Andrei Markov’s shot with 17 seconds left on a Montreal power play, the first of several tough saves he made over the next two periods.
“We’re being tested right now, and right now we can’t feel sorry for ourselves, and try to make excuses for every situation,” Koivu said. “We’ve got two days to regroup and get back on home ice for Game 5.”
Flyers F Mike Knuble was in the lineup for the first time since injuring a hamstring in Game 5 against the Capitals. He had an assist on Briere’s goal. The Flyers scratched F Steve Downie. … Former Flyers G Ron Hextall sent a videotaped message of support. … Canadiens D Patrice Brisebois played after missing two games with a leg injury.