Brendan Gallagher ends goal drought and Canadiens force Game 6 against Flyers

Nick Suzuki buried the winner 22 seconds after Philadelphia tied the score in the third period, Brendan Gallagher snapped his post-season goal drought, and the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Flyers 5-3 on Wednesday night to stave off elimination in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.

Joel Armia added two goals for the Canadiens, who still trail the best-of-seven matchup 3-2. Game 6 goes Friday at Scotiabank Arena. Phillip Danualt sealed it into an empty net.

Carey Price made 26 saves to get the win.

Jakub Voracek scored twice for the Flyers — both on a five-minute power play in the second period — and added an assist, while Joel Farabee had the other Philadelphia goal. Carter Hart, who was coming off back-to-back shutouts, finished with 28 stops.

After the Flyers knotted the score 3-3 on Farabee’s power-play redirection at 10:37 of the third, Suzuki took a Jonathan Drouin pass from behind the Philadelphia net on the next shift and outwaited Hart to score his second of the post-season as the Canadiens delivered a decisive counterpunch in the back-and-forth tilt.

Montreal, which entered trailing 3-1 in the series despite giving up just five combined goals, watched the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes both get eliminated from the NHL’s restart earlier Wednesday on the same sheet of ice following separate Game 5 losses.

The Tampa Bay Lightning downed Columbus 5-4 in overtime, while the Boston Bruins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 to advance. Montreal was actually the only one of four teams on the brink to stay alive after the Colorado Avalanche thumped the Arizona Coyotes 7-1 to win that series 4-1 in the Edmonton bubble.

Philadelphia got a power play seven minutes into the third, but Price snagged Claude Giroux’s shot through a screen. Kevin Hayes then had a partial break, leading to a tripping call and Farabee’s third that briefly drew the Flyers level before Suzuki responded to keep the Canadiens alive.

Montreal led 1-0 after the first period on the heels of getting shut out 1-0 in Sunday’s Game 3 and 2-0 in Tuesday’s Game 4, but suffered a big blow early in the second when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding on Philadelphia defenceman Travis Sanheim. The 20-year-old centre initially went to the penalty box, but after the referees reviewed the play, Kotkaniemi was booted from the game just 1:45 into the middle period.

Philadelphia made the Canadiens pay 50 seconds later when Voracek’s shot struck the stick of Montreal blue-liner Ben Chiarot and beat Price for his third. The Flyers then took their first lead at 6:37 with eight seconds left on the same man advantage when Voracek’s pass in front went off Chiarot’s skate and slid over the goal line.

The Canadiens and their pop-gun offence looked to be in serious trouble, but Armia, who hit a crossbar moments earlier, scored his second of the night and third of the post-season from a sharp angle on Hart at 10:12 to tie things 2-2.

That set the table for Gallagher — a heart-and-soul player benched for much of Tuesday’s third period — on the power play after Philadelphia’s Philippe Myers got a double-minor for high-sticking. Suzuki feathered an aerial pass to the winger down low, and he batted home his first out of mid-air before looking skyward in relief at 11:30.

Gallagher, who scored on his league-leading 37th shot of the restart, snapped a personal nine-game post-season scoring slump dating back to 2017.

Suzuki then beat Hart off the rush for a goal that looked to have made it 4-2 with 5:26 left in the period, but the sequence was correctly challenged for offside with Drouin into the offensive zone a step early.

Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault was about to give Hart the hook in favour of Brian Elliott for the second time in the series before the call was reversed. Montreal led 3-2 heading to the third.

The Canadiens, who hadn’t scored since midway through the third period of their 5-0 victory in Game 2, got on the board at 2:56 of the opening period on a slick short-handed sequence with Chiarot off in the box for crashing Hart’s crease.

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Montreal defenceman Xavier Ouelette grabbed the puck and faked like he was going to fire it around the boards in the Philadelphia zone. He instead blasted a shot off the yellow dasher behind Hart, and a hard-charging Armia was first to it before firing between the Philadelphia netminder’s pads.

The 22-year-old Hart, who became the second-youngest goalie in NHL history to record consecutive playoff shutouts, saw his streak end at 122 minutes 53 seconds, while Montreal’s goal drought was snapped at 132:18.

TORONTO STAR