Flyers, Sandstrom avoid series sweep versus Canadiens

Flyers' Morgan Frost and Felix Sandstrom
Philadelphia Flyers’ Felix Sandstrom, left, and Philadelphia Flyers’ Morgan Frost celebrate after an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the final game of the season series.

Nicolas Deslauriers rejoined the lineup. Tanner Laczynski was a healthy scratch, with John Tortorella electing the 11F/7D format, placing Justin Braun into the lineup. Felix Sandstrom replaced Carter Hart in the lineup, denoted as a lower-body injury. The Flyers dressed defensively to provide puck support in front of Sandstrom.

Philadelphia owned a 0-1-1 record in 2022-2023 versus the Canadiens. Sandstrom didn’t start in either of those contests.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens were at their best in the first period, a stalemate between the opponents. Neither team could find space in the offensive zone. Brendan Gallagher had the best scoring chance of the period, ringing the puck off the post. Tony DeAngelo was guilty of a few bad turnovers in the defensive zone, where the Canadiens successfully pinched atop the blue line and boards. Sandstrom and Cayden Primeau both dueled, keeping a scoreless tie.

Discipline went a long way for the Philadelphia Flyers. Montreal technically finished 2/2 on the penalty kill, but they still felt the man-down disadvantage when Morgan Frost scored; 1-0. A second after the powerplay expired, Frost finished a clean, slick pass from Kevin Hayes through the crease.

“Before that happened, I was behind him [Hayes] on the short side calling for the puck. He’s got unbelievable vision and that’s just a really special play to make right through the goalie’s stick, and through the crease. That goal’s all him.”

Morgan Frost; 3/28/2023

Jumping out to a one-goal lead changed the pace of the game. The transition from offense to defense created a tandem of scoring chances, testing Primeau and Sandstrom. Joel Farabee and Nick Seeler were in the neighborhood of a puck that stopped in front of the goal line, which could have pushed the Flyers into a two-goal lead.

Instead, Gallagher made good on another chance at Sandstrom. He recovered a defensive zone turnover by Scott Laughton for a goal, 1-1. Primeau preserved the lead during another penalty kill, denying DeAngelo and Frost separate high-danger opportunities.

Deadlocked, 1-1, Philadelphia looked to their best player throughout this contest. Like a shark sensing blood, Frost cycled through the offensive zone for consecutive shots on goal. Overall, the Flyers possessed the puck more thoroughly in the third period, in addition to the steady puck support by the defense in front of Sandstrom.

Frost added another, going end-to-end in a two-on-one with Farabee. Frost chose the middle before unleashing a snapshot on Primeau, 2-1. Soon after, Tippett added one more with an empty-net goal that stood as the game-winner; 3-1.

“I was thinking pass, like I usually do, most of the way. Then, I saw the second guy was going to over-backcheck. I switched it up last minute and ended up shooting.”

Morgan Frost; 3/28/2023

Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored late to nullify Frost from a game-winning goal, 3-2. At the end of regulation, Philadelphia held on to the victory. They’re 5-0-1 over their last six games, their best run of the regular season.

Puck Support (+)

Sandstrom made all the required saves versus the Montreal Canadiens. At times, he looked like he survived an offensive attack from the Canadiens.

Defensively, the Philadelphia Flyers were blocking more shots, making more hits, and taking the puck away in the defensive zone. Rasmus Ristolainen ranked atop the defensive performances. He cleared the crease for Sandstrom to prevent deflection chances, and his slapshot was an assault weapon on the powerplay if you dared to block it.

Kieffer Bellows hustled, nearly generating a scoring chance with DeAngelo after gaining entry into the offensive zone. Lately, the Flyers are creating more offense out of defense. The puck support in front of Sandstrom suggests Philadelphia could’ve generated more scoring than they did out of their play in the defensive and neutral zones. An underrated partner in crime to the night Frost put together was Brendan Lemieux, who kept placing the puck in high-danger areas against Primeau.

A disciplined, preventative effort by the Flyers earned their first victory over Montreal.

Morgan Frost (+)

Games like these are encouraging because Frost continues to maximize his confidence and grow with Tortorella.

“The goals are the goals; that’s great. We’re looking for that, but I think he’s [Frost] improved right on through away from the puck, which is a very important part of his game.”

John Tortorella; 3/28/2023

Tortorella didn’t jump to the two goals scored by Frost. He pointed out his effort in terms of puck support, an over-arching storyline. The commitment to becoming an effective two-hundred-foot player is helping Frost grow on Tortorella.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)