June 23rd, 2024

Slafkovsky nets hat trick, Canadiens hand Flyers eighth straight loss in 9-3 blowout

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on April 9, 2024.

Montreal Canadiens' Juraj Slafkovsky (20) scores Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Samuel Ersson during second period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL – Juraj Slafkovsky scored his first career hat trick, and the Montreal Canadiens dealt the stumbling Philadelphia Flyers their eighth straight defeat with a 9-3 blowout win Tuesday night.

The 20-year-old Slafkovsky put Montreal up 4-0 with his third goal on a breakaway midway through the second period and received a deafening standing ovation from the Bell Centre crowd when the goal was announced.

Christian Dvorak – in his return from a 42-game absence – and Brendan Gallagher scored twice while Josh Anderson and Joel Armia also found the back of the net for Montreal (30-36-12). Sam Montembeault made 32 saves and Jordan Harris had three assists as the Canadiens snapped a three-game skid.

Ryan Poehling had two goals and Joel Farabee also scored for labouring Philadelphia (36-32-11), which suffered another blow to its end-of-season playoff chase.

Samuel Ersson stopped 12 of 17 shots before getting the hook in the second period. Backup Ivan Fedotov turned away 10 of 14.

The Flyers entered play Tuesday one point behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and two points back of the New York Islanders for third in the Metropolitan Division with one more game played.

They fell out of a playoff spot for the first time in months after Saturday’s 6-2 loss to Columbus and have three games remaining in the regular season.

Flyers captain Sean Couturier returned from missing two games with a shoulder injury.

The Canadiens jumped on the Flyers early and opened the scoring 1:05 into the game when Mike Matheson’s one-timer deflected off Slafkovsky’s skate and into the back of the net.

After Montembeault denied several Flyers chances, Slafkovsky added his second at 8:43 of the second period, finishing off a smooth feed from Nick Suzuki, to spark a Canadiens onslaught.

Gallagher made it 3-0 with a deflection at 10:46 before Slafkovsky buried his hat trick goal post-and-in 26 seconds later.

Drafted first overall in 2022, Slafkovsky is up to 19 goals and 48 points this season after an underwhelming rookie year and a slow start this season.

Anderson got in on the action at 12:42, snapping a 16-game goalless drought. With Fedotov in net, Dvorak made it 6-0 at 15:27 as the Flyers looked lifeless.

Poehling got Philadelphia on the board with a wrist-shot goal 4:54 into the third to break Montembeault’s shutout bid.

Dvorak scored his second to restore the six-goal lead at 10:06, and Gallagher pushed it up to seven with another tally 73 seconds later as “Olé, Olé, Ol锝 reverberated around the arena.

Farabee and Poehling scored to cut into the lead before the final buzzer, but the deficit was far too large to erase.

Armia added a ninth goal for Montreal with under two minutes left for good measure.

SURGERY FOR XHEKAJ

The Canadiens announced Tuesday morning that defenceman Arber Xhekaj would have left shoulder surgery on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old Xhekaj was injured in a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday and will undergo shoulder surgery for a second straight season. A procedure on his right shoulder in February 2023 cut his 2022-23 campaign short. The Canadiens expect the rugged blueliner to recover in time for the start of next season.

XHEKAJ 2.0

Keeping it in the family, Florian Xhekaj, Arber’s younger brother, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canadiens later Tuesday. The 19-year-old was selected by the Canadiens in the fourth round (101st overall) of last year’s NHL entry draft. He will join the Laval Rocket, Montreal’s American Hockey League affiliate, after producing 34 goals and 31 assists in 63 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Brantford Bulldogs this season.

UP NEXT

Canadiens: Open a three-game road trip Thursday against the New York Islanders.

Flyers: Wrap up a four-game trip Thursday against the New York Rangers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2024.

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