Philadelphia Flyers goalie Antero Nittymaki grabs the puck on a shot by Montreal Canadiens\' Steve Begin in the first period. (AP/Rusty Kennedy)
Aebischer stopped 27 shots, and Michael Ryder and Alex Kovalev scored goals to lead the Canadiens to a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. The Canadiens only needed the standard three periods to put this one away after opening the season with two straight shootouts. They split those, and now head home for Saturday's opener against Ottawa with two victories on their trip.
"We've played really well all three games," Aebischer said. "There's always a period of adjustment in a couple of areas, but I thought we've worked really hard and that's the key."
Montreal owes this one to Aebischer, who was stellar in earning his second win of the season in another hostile environment. The Flyers couldn't slip one past on the power play, wasting all eight chances, including an 0-for-4 effort in the first period.
Philadelphia went 1-for-5 on the power play in a 4-2 win at New York on Tuesday.
"This is a really frustrating loss because we really could have built something," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We could have built from the momentum of the last two games and we didn't."
The Flyers trailed 2-0 going into the third, but R.J. Umberger scored nearly 2 minutes into the period to energize the crowd. It had no impact on Aebischer. He stopped 13 shots in the third and kept the Flyers winless at home this season (0-1-1).
Fittingly, the Flyers came up empty playing the final 1:53 on a power play. Chris Higgins added a short-handed, empty-netter in the final seconds.
"We did a lot better job to take care of our end in the third period, and we played a lot better defensively," Kovalev said.
Starting his third straight game and second in two nights, Antero Niittymaki had 20 saves for the Flyers. Even with a torn labrum in his left hip, Niittymaki seems to have edged out Robert Esche as Philadelphia's No. 1 goalie. Niittymaki decided to have a cortisone shot instead of surgery to repair the tear, and it appears it was the smart move, even though he has only one win, so far.
Niittymaki said his hip has not been a problem since his shot.
"I feel something once in a while, but nothing major," he said. "It doesn't bother me at all."
The Canadiens scored only 38 seconds into the game on Ryder's second goal of the season. Montreal jumped on a loose puck, and worked it around the boards before Ryder knocked it past Niittymaki.
"It's not fun to get scored on in the first minute," Niittymaki said.
The Flyers were all over Aebischer early in the period, firing one shot off the post, but wasted just under seven minutes of power-play time. They had a two-man advantage for 58 of those seconds, but Aebischer never flinched.
Montreal caught a break early in the second on Kovalev's goal. The puck caromed to the left circle, and Nolan Baumgartner momentarily had his stick on it before the puck slid away from him. It came right to Kovalev who sent a quick wrist shot over Niittymaki's left glove to make it 2-0.
The Flyers skated off the ice to boos, a little quieter than usual because of a surprising number of empty seats.
Notes: Flyers D Mike Rathje was tentatively diagnosed with piriformis syndrome on Wednesday, and not a herniated disk as originally thought, trainer Jim McCrossin said. Rathje, sidelined since playing in the opener, will be examined again in the next two days to confirm the diagnosis. McCrossin said Rathje will only need an injection and not surgery. "In a best-case scenario, we are hoping Mike can be back on the ice late next week," McCrossin said. The Piriformis is one of the small muscles deep in the buttocks that rotates the leg outwards.