MONTREAL - The Philadelphia Flyers saw this coming.
Despite taking a commanding 2-0 series lead at home over the Montreal Canadiens by a combined 9-0 score, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette has insisted the lopsided nature of the score did not properly reflect his team's play thus far.
His warnings showed Thursday night as the Canadiens handed the Flyers a 5-1 loss to cut their series lead in half.
While Laviolette showed concern about his team's play, Flyers captain Mike Richards said the players may have believed the hype that this series would be a cakewalk.
"We got a little cocky, a little full of ourselves thinking we could just go out there and play," Richards said. "This was a long time coming. We didn't play all that well over the first couple of games, we relied heavily on our power play to win those. Our 5-on-5 play wasn't the greatest. That was just a beat down."
The Canadiens made a few adjustments from the first two games, the most striking being the pressure they placed on an over-taxed Flyers defence that only goes four deep, for all intents and purposes.
Montreal sent wave after wave of speedy forecheckers flipping the puck behind the Flyers defencemen and forcing turnovers in the offensive zone. The most glaring victims of the Canadiens strategy was the top pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle, who were on the ice for the first four Montreal goals.
"I don't know if they were more physical, they were just more on top of you," Pronger said. "We need to do a better job of moving the puck quicker."
It was a brutal Pronger giveaway to Dominic Moore that directly led to Montreal's second goal and he appeared to be unable to keep up with the Canadiens speed to the outside.
"Their first four goals were all turnovers," Pronger said. "They're obviously a team that can turn around quickly and get back on you offensively, so we have to be a lot better with the puck and make a lot smarter plays."
Laviolette was saying after the Flyers' 3-0 win in Game 2 that the victory may have been masking some of his team's bad habits. In that same vein, Pronger said a one-sided loss like this may do his team some good.
"Losing sometimes is good," he said. "It doesn't feel very good when it happens, but you can learn an awful lot from not playing well and what you need to do to be more successful. From top to bottom we need to be a lot better."
Richards, however, hopes his teammates remember that feeling of losing so badly and use it to fuel a better effort in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.
"You always say you want to move on after a game and forget about it," he said. "But hopefully we can take this bitter taste in our mouths and bring it the next game."