It was a nice little story for a while, but the Montreal Canadiens are in for another long series if the Philadelphia Flyers have anything to say about it.
Fresh of a remarkable win in the Eastern Conference Semis over defending champ Pittsburgh, the Canadiens are again playing from behind as the Flyers drilled goalie Jaroslav Halak for six scores in a 6-0 in the Conference Finals opener.
Philadelphia had six different goal scorers in all. Michael Leighton made 28 saves for the Flyers, capping his first-career playoff shutout, and the Flyers are now the commanding favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in NHL Sportsbooks.
“It makes it a little bit easier when we score that many,” Leighton said. “In the second period, we played really well. We got a few goals and that kind of calmed me down and I think it calmed the team down. It took a lot of pressure off us.”
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Philadelphia was up 3-0 midway through the second period, and kept pounding the net after rallying from that deficit in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins.
James van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere and Simon Gagne all added goals in that period to ensure no such comeback this time around.
“We know they’re going to come back a lot better, a lot stronger in the next game,” Briere said. “The goal was to keep home-ice advantage — win the two games. We’re just halfway there.”
Having home ice is a bit of an unexpected luxury for Philadelphia as the conference’s no. 7 seed. It’s the first time a seven seed has had the advantage in the conference finals in league history.
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It was the kind of period Flyers’ fans have been accustomed to. According to ESPN, Philadelphia has outscored it’s playoff opponents 12-1 in the second and third periods of it’s last four games.
It was only the second time Montreal failed to score a goal this postseason.
“We have to analyze the game, no doubt,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. “The special teams play needs to be better. It was our overall game that made us successful the first and second round and we didn’t compete the way we needed to win.”
Halak, who entered the series as the league’s hottest goalie, was pounded with 14 shots early on, and was pulled midway through the second period.
Philadelphia had only one day off to rest before the new series, but showed no signs of lag from the emotional comeback against Boston.
“We had confidence, but we started out slow,” the Flyers’ Mike Richards said. “As the game went on, I thought we got better. Our power play was clicking and that ultimately got us the victory.”