At the edge of the abyss, the Philadelphia Flyers felt calm and unruffled.
"The pressure was off a bit being down 3-1," said Flyers coach Paul Holmgren after his team beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 Tuesday night with a goal by Dave Poulin 5:02 into overtime."People start to count you out so you just have to go out there and play your best. We have to go back home now, where we are a . 500 team. The Canadiens are a great team and we certainly have our work cut out for us."
Montreal went into the game with a 3-1 lead in the Wales Conference final, having dominated the Flyers in three straight victories. But the Canadiens turned in a listless performance, as though they figured the series already was won.
But the Flyers are a team that came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat Washington in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 to beat Pittsburgh in the Patrick Division championship.
"I don't think we ever sensed a lot of pressure," said Holmgren. "We're a pretty loose bunch. It takes the heat off to be down 3-1, but the guys were determined and played a relentless game."
It was fitting that Poulin scored for a team that seems to have as many players injured as healthy. Poulin didn't take the pre-game skate because he has a foot with two broken toes frozen before games and the treatment wears off with use.
Tim Kerr, Keith Acton, Mark Howe, Ron Hextall and others are playing injured. Rick Tocchet and Murray Craven missed the game.
Unlike the previous three games, Montreal didn't take advantage and now faces the prospect of trying to wrap up the series in Philadelphia Thursday night. In their favor is a 5-1 road record in the playoffs, while the Flyers are only 4-4 at home.
"We have to come out and play hard from the beginning," said Bobby Smith, who had Montreal's goal. "It's a desperate game. We don't want a seventh game."
Derrick Smith scored for Philadelphia at 3:53 of the second period but Bobby Smith got it back at 15:46 of the third. A rule of the series has been that the team that scores first wins.
"It seems that the game is played so tight that the first goal gives a lift to whoever scores it," said Montreal forward Ryan Walter. "Then the other team has a tough time overcoming that one goal."
Montreal coach Pat Burns saw his team abandon its usual strategy.
"We did not play a style that complements us," he said. "We played a wide-open style that is not the way we want to play. When we saw them play an offensive game, we did the same. They didn't play a great defensive game, they played a great offensive game."