For more on today’s game, check out our Montreal blog at Habs Eyes On The Prize and our Flyers blog at Broad Street Hockey.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Michael Leighton made 28 saves to earn his first career playoff shutout, and the Philadelphia Flyers continued their torrid play with a 6-0 rout of the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Leighton, forced into action in the midst of the Flyers’ Game 5 conference semifinal series after Brian Boucher went down with a knee injury, improved to 3-0 in this postseason. Philadelphia, which remarkably recovered from a 0-3 series deficit to Boston in its previous series, has now ripped off five straight playoff wins for the first time since a six-game stretch in 1995.
Braydon Coburn, Scott Hartnell, James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere each posted a goal and an assist in the resounding victory to start what is one of the most unlikely of series. Philadelphia and Montreal enter this set as the seventh and eighth seed, respectively, giving the Flyers home- ice advantage for the first time in the post-lockout era. It is the first matchup between the two lowest seeds since the current playoff format was adopted in 1994.
Simon Gagne also scored for the Flyers, who will look to take a two-game series lead at home on Tuesday.
Jaroslav Halak, who helped the Habs notch unlikely series victories over Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington and defending champion Pittsburgh, was scorched for four goals on only 14 shots. Carey Price made nine saves in relief of Halak, who was pulled midway through the second period.
The loss is the worst to start a series for Montreal since 1919.
The Canadiens controlled play for most of the first period, but the Flyers were the only team to find the back of the net.
Both teams were called for a penalty within 51 seconds of each other in the opening couple minutes, leaving the Flyers with a short power play at the tail end of the sequence. Philadelphia capitalized on its advantage, as Ville Leino drew a defenseman to the ground near the net and shoved the puck toward the cage. Halak was unable to corral the rebound, and Coburn stuffed it in at 3:55.
The Habs outshot the Flyers, 13-6, in the opening frame, but Leighton made a couple good saves to keep the Canadiens off the scoreboard. With 6:41 left, Leighton was able to steer away a fluttering puck from the point with his blocker, and he cut off Scott Gomez’s angle inside two minutes to make a pad stop.
The hosts picked up their play dramatically in the second period, scoring early and often to take a commanding lead.
Giroux won an offensive zone faceoff, skated toward the net and flicked the disc toward Halak. Van Riemsdyk was able to find it in front and push it past the netminder just 30 seconds into the period for a 2-0 cushion.
Just under four minutes later, a second after a Montreal penalty expired, Briere took a soft pass from Matt Carle at the top of the left circle and blistered a slapshot above Halak’s glove for a three-goal advantage.
Then, approaching the midway point of the period, Gagne’s wrister from the right wing found its way past a screened Halak, and the Habs went to Carey Price in net for the remainder of the game.
Hartnell scored at 12:13 of the third, and Giroux added another tally just over a minute later to cement the victory. Leighton needed to stop only five shots in the final 20 minutes to secure the whitewash.
The Flyers came into this postseason having lost six consecutive Game 1s but have won two of three this season…Montreal had allowed only 12 goals in its previous six games…Philadelphia has won 21 of 28 series when winning Game 1…Briere has a three-game goal streak and a five-game point streak, and Gagne has a five-game point streak…Philadelphia is now 5-1 at home in the postseason, and Montreal is 5-4 on the road…The Habs have won three of the five postseason meetings between these clubs, although the Flyers won the last meeting in the 2008 conference semis…Leino and Carle both had two assists…Giroux has a plus-four rating.