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

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 remembers scoring a hat trick where the only person who threw their hat on the ice was his dad.

His experience Tuesday night was quite the opposite.

“I've never scored a hat trick like this,” he said.

Slafkovsky scored three times as the Montreal Canadiens dealt the stumbling Philadelphia Flyers their eighth straight defeat amid a playoff chase with a 9-3 blowout win.

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 after fans covered the ice with ball caps.

“It was pretty loud,” Slafkovsky said. “It’s a pretty nice feeling to hear that.”

The six-foot-three, 220-pound Slafkovsky became the second-youngest Hab to score a hat trick in the club’s storied history, and did it while sick and sleep-deprived.

The Slovakian winger’s throat was so sore he almost lost his voice, but he’ll deal with having to fill his mouth with cough drops if it means he can fill the net with pucks.

“It can stay like this if it’s like (this) every game,” he said. “It’s just a good day, bad sleep but good day.”

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). 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, who fell out of a playoff spot for the first time in months Saturday, dropped two points behind the Washington Capitals for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and four points back of the New York Islanders for third in the Metropolitan Division with one more game played.

“We made a lot of mistakes. Turnovers, coverages, any part of the game there were mistakes," head coach John Tortorella said. “You’ve got to eat it and we’ve got to stay together and try to solve things.

“Whether it’s enough time to do what we want to do to try to get in, I’m not concerned about that. I’m concerned about just being pros trying to get some of our dignity back.”

Every Flyers player sat in uniform waiting to answer questions as media entered the visitors’ dressing room after the game, an unusual site in the NHL.

“They need to answer the questions,” Tortorella said.

“I don’t question their effort because it’s been a strong group all year long,” he added. “I’m frustrated for them because this was rock bottom tonight for us and I hate to see us at this time of year be playing this way after all the good minutes we’ve put in throughout the year.”

The Canadiens opened the scoring 1:05 into the game when Mike Matheson’s one-timer deflected off Slafkovsky’s skate.

After Montembeault denied several Flyers chances, Slafkovsky added his second at 8:43 of the second period to spark a Canadiens onslaught.

“They score their first goal right away and you say, ‘Man,’” Tortorella said. “But I thought we gathered ourselves there and actually didn’t play a bad first period.

“But then when they score their second goal, we’re running around a little bit. Things just went the wrong way.”

Gallagher made it 3-0 at 10:46 before Slafkovsky buried his hat-trick goal 26 seconds later.

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

His offensive turnaround coincides with a jump up to Montreal’s top line alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield in December — something head coach Martin St. Louis said Slafkovsky earned with his defensive play.

“He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do,” St. Louis said he thought at the time. “He deserves an opportunity to play with our best player — and he took off.

“But it was earned.”

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.

Poehling got Philadelphia on the board in the third but Dvorak and Gallagher scored again to push the lead to seven as “Olé, Olé, Olé” reverberated around the arena.

Farabee and Poehling 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.


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.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press

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