Loss to Flyers feels like a win in the big picture for Canadiens

Morgan Frost scored twice and Felix Sandstrom made 27 saves as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2.

This was a loss that was a win in the grand scheme of things, with the Montreal Canadiens dropping two points in regulation to the Philadelphia Flyers.

It knocked them four points back of the Flyers, kept them one behind the Arizona Coyotes, and puts them one step closer to securing a bottom-five position in the NHL standings.

With Connor Bedard leading a class of uber talented players in the 2023 NHL Draft, that’s where the Canadiens want to be when this whole thing wraps up seven games from now.

Cayden Primeau would’ve taken a real win, though.

The 23-year-old goaltender hasn’t earned one for the Canadiens at this level since beating the Flyers at the Bell Centre on Dec. 16, 2021, in a game that saw him make 37 saves. It would’ve been extra special for him to get one in the building where he spent six years of his childhood, watching his father, Keith, play the best of his 15 NHL seasons with the Flyers.

“This is where the dream started for me,” Primeau told reporters after making 24 saves in the 3-2 loss.

“It was pretty surreal,” he said just about playing at Wells Fargo Center.

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If it was surreal for Primeau, it had to have felt like an outer-body experience for Sean Farrell, who was playing his first NHL game after signing with the Canadiens last weekend following his banner sophomore season at Harvard University.

In front of family and friends in attendance, without even the benefit of a morning skate because the Canadiens played in Buffalo a night prior, Farrell skated the first 19 shifts of his career in Philadelphia.

He had one shot attempt, one takeaway, took one hit from one of the NHL’s most intimidating players in Nicolas Deslauriers and, without wowing, appeared anything but out of place.

He showed glimpses of the cerebral player who had 20 goals and 53 points in 34 NCAA games this season, though there was only so much he could do to impact the game.

“It was a bit of a mission impossible,” said linemate Jonathan Drouin about Farrell being dropped into this situation.

But the Canadiens took the opportunity to get their first look at the kid at this level, and they appreciated what they saw.

“I liked his game for a youngster who was playing in college just jumping in,” said Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis. “They’re not an easy team to play against in Philly, they play heavy. He had good touches, good intentions, and this is his first game. They’re reps you can’t buy.”

Farrell will get more of them. Many more, with St. Louis saying he’s looking forward to getting to know him better over the final weeks of the season.

Primeau won’t play another game with the Canadiens before returning to the AHL to help the Laval Rocket hopefully secure the final playoff berth in the North Division.

If they can do it, that too would be a win for the Canadiens, with so many young players joining the pro ranks and management hoping for them to get as many games in as possible.

Even better if Primeau can stack the confidence of a good performance against the Flyers on top of the .924 save percentage he was riding with the Rocket over his last seven starts.

“I thought he played an excellent game,” said St. Louis.

“He was outstanding,” said Brendan Gallagher, who scored for a third consecutive game. “He was our best player tonight … Definitely did everything he could to give us a chance to win that game.”

Two of Primeau’s best saves came on clean breaks for Joel Farabee and Kevin Hayes in the first period. The other two were made on Wade Allison in the second, when he turned aside a half breakaway and the rebound that followed.

Morgan Frost scored on two excellent shots for Philadelphia, and Owen Tippett scored an empty-netter to put the game out of reach.

It was a frustrating one for the Canadiens, with the Flyers plugging up the middle of the ice and playing with the type of patience that was going to exhaust a fatigued team.

“Our execution wasn’t excellent,” said St. Louis. “We were a tired group. We weren’t sharp. Three in four, back to back, no surprise.”

But it wasn’t a bad result for the Canadiens, who still put in an honest effort and got closer to securing the draft positioning that will better serve their rebuild.

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