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Following their formula leaves Canadiens smiling

MONTREAL -- Michael Cammalleri sat at the podium after Thursday night's 5-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers and started cracking jokes.

"Winning is fun," he said when asked about his joviality. It also probably helped that Cammalleri had the game-opening goal in the rout, scoring 7:05 into the first period to end the dominance of Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton.

Actually, Montreal's performance in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Bell Centre -- a must-win for the home team -- had many of the Canadiens in a downright giddy mood for the first time in a series that had heretofore been dominated by the Flyers.

Now, Montreal finds itself on the comeback trail yet again, following the same fight-back script that has already claimed the hides of the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins this postseason. Instead of staring into a three-games-to-none abyss, the Canadiens enter Saturday's Game 4 here looking for a split that seemed almost unimaginable after going 0-for-Philadelphia in back-to-back shutout losses to start the series.

The smiles, though, came more from the process Montreal followed in making Philadelphia look human after reeling off six-straight playoff wins, rather than the lopsided final score.

"It was everything," said Brian Gionta, who scored Montreal's fourth goal. "We moved the puck better tonight. We came up with support and entered their zone better. Our forecheck was good and when all that is going, it is a lot easier to get traffic to the net and get opportunities. Obviously, we started to do that in Game 2 and it paid off tonight."

Ever since an embarrassing 6-0 loss in Sunday's Game 1 of this series, the Canadiens talked about the process they must pursue to be competitive. Thursday night -- before a rabid Bell Centre crowd -- they lived the process, believing it would lead to the success they sought.

"For us, we like the way we play, and we thought the goals were going to come," Cammalleri said. "So it was big for us, don't get me wrong.  But I just think that so much is made of the result that ends up determining the way you guys analyze the game. 

Sometimes, for us, it's more important to worry about how we're playing than scoring the goal. The goal goes in and it helps; but we know it's coming."

And once the first goal came, Montreal seemed to find the confidence to do all the little things necessary -- the process, as they like to say -- to make it happen over and over again.

They got pucks deep and made the Flyers' defensemen skate, which is not the strength of that group.

They used their speed to get in on the forecheck and wreak havoc, leading to a number of giveaways, including a pair of disastrous ones by the previously dominant Chris Pronger, who was on the ice for each of Montreal's first four goals. 

They got in the kitchen of Leighton all night, starting with Cammalleri's goal, which came with both Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec buzzing around the crease.

"Yeah, we were just trying to get the puck to our ‘D', and get the pucks on net, and get people and get traffic to the net, and start banging and crashing away a little bit," Cammalleri said. "The puck jumped out from me. Good poise by the point men and good battles in front by my linemates, and the puck just popped out to me."

 

Montreal remained disciplined throughout the game, allowing a deadly Philadelphia power play -- the biggest difference in the first two games -- to have just three attempts in Game 3. 

Its defense did a far better job of denying Philadelphia entry into the offensive zone and was far more resistant to the attempts of Philadelphia's forecheckers to get in and around Jaroslav Halak, who made 25 saves and lost a chance at a shutout when Simon Gagne scored a seeing-eye goal with 11:38 left in the third. Halak stopped Philadelphia's first 20 shots and was the game-changer he had been through the first two rounds.

The Canadiens finally scored on the power play, as Marc Andre Bergeron scored a 5-on-3 goal in the game's final minute to end a frustrating run of 13 man advantages without a goal.

And they received depth scoring, something that has been sorely missing throughout this playoff run. Thursday night, they had five different players score and 11 different players register a point. The energy line of Dominic Moore, Tom Pyatt and Maxim Lapierre accounted for two goals -- including the game-winner by Pyatt -- and five points.

"We moved the puck better tonight. We came up with support and entered their zone better. Our forecheck was good and when all that is going, it is a lot easier to get traffic to the net and get opportunities. Obviously, we started to do that in Game 2 and it paid off tonight."

-- Brian Gionta

"The depth, I think it was important," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "The goals, I think we got two goals from that line, one on the power play, then one from one line, Cammalleri, another one from Gionta. So we got our goals distributed through our lineup tonight, and you need that to win."

Thursday night, Montreal got everything it needed to win and, afterward, there was reason to smile -- and, yes, even crack a joke or two.

But come Saturday's Game 4, the Canadiens will have to execute the winning process of Thursday night yet again if they want to keep smiling.

"We still got a long way to go," Scott Gomez said. "Being down 2-0 can be pretty tough, but you have to look at the big picture. They won at home and we want to win at home. That is the way we were taught and now the next game will be even tougher. Lavy (Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette) will have them ready to go because he is that good of a coach. We'll have to match that. We'll enjoy this for an hour or so and then it gets harder -- but it is definitely worth it."