Game Recap: EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 2 – Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens

Ponder this for a moment: the Philadelphia Flyers have more wins (2) than the Montreal Canadiens have goals (0) in this series.

Michael Leighton stood on his head Tuesday night and the Flyers recovered from a severely lackluster period and a half of hockey to open up the contest and take Game Two by a score of 3-0, advancing their lead to two games to none in their best of seven series with the Habs.  After being shellacked in Game One, it was obvious to pretty much anybody who had 1) been watching playoff hockey this season, or 2) knew even the slightest bit about hockey in general, that Montreal was going to come out fired up and play with a purpose on Tuesday night.  In each of their previous two series, they’ve been able to garner a split on the road, and send the series back to the raucous Bell Centre evened up.  In this series, that won’t be the case.

Simon Gagne's second period marker on the powerplay was a back-breaker for Montreal

It was clear from the get-go that the Montreal Canadiens were not going to be rattled by the deafening noise inside the Wachovia Center at the start of Game Two, as the Habs literally went right to work in the Flyers zone off the opening face-off.  To be honest, Montreal dominated play in the first period of action.  The Flyers were outplayed – albeit this time a tad more severely – by their opponents for the second game in a row in the opening frame, something that must change as this series shifts to Montreal for Games Three and Four.  Still, as poor as the Flyers played in the first period, they atoned for it in a big way on a brief three on two on the power play just four minutes into the contest.  Claude Giroux entered the Montreal zone and made a beautiful little backhanded saucer pass that landed right on the tape of the red-hot Danny Briere.  All Briere did was let fly an absolute bullet from the slot and beat Jaroslav Halak glove-side to make it 1-0 Flyers and send the Wachovia Center into a frenzy.  However, aside from the lone goal of the period, which fortunately was awarded to the Flyers, the story of the frame was the performance of Michael Leighton.  Leighton made some gigantic stops early on to keep the Flyers in the game, making 16 first period saves and showing once again that for those waiting for him to implode, there is no sign of that coming.

Michael Leighton was once again superb in net, making 30 saves for another shutout

The second period began much like the first, in that the Habs had a ton of puck possession in the offensive zone, and the Flyers struggled mightily to match their speed as Montreal was buzzing around Michael Leighton.  Still, Leighton once again stood tall, and the Flyers got the break that made the difference in the period.  Brian Gionta was whistled with just about five minutes to go in the second period for hooking – the only penalty of the middle frame – and got the suddenly vaunted Flyers powerplay back on the ice in the process.  It didn’t take long for the Orange and Black to cash in.  Mike Richards centered the puck into the goalmouth, where Ville Leino picked it up and ripped a backhander, which Halak handled, but Simon Gagne found the rebound and buried it past the outstretched hands of Halak to make it 2-0 Flyers.  The goal really served as a backbreaker, as I watched the Canadiens reactions after the puck found the back of the net, and they already looked like a defeated team.  Halak lied in the crease for an extra few seconds, unable to even get up, and tough guy Roman Hamrlik just stood there, hunched over his stick and hanging his head.  The goal was a big one for the Flyers, as it gave them the all-important two-goal cushion heading into the third period, despite the fact that the shots were 26-13 in favor of Montreal.

The Flyers celebrate taking a 2-0 lead in the series. The scene shifts to Montreal Thursday

In the third, the Flyers started to shift the play heavily in their favor.  They outshot Montreal 10-4 in the final frame, and Michael Leighton once again showed he was up to the task, making a huge glove save on a power play attempt that the Habs got courtesy of a stupid penalty by Arron Asham late in the third.  The Flyers got another goal to add some icing on the cake in the third period, as Ville Leino buried a wrist shot to Halak’s right, which glanced off the goaltender’s glove and into the back of the net – a shot that Halak should’ve never let see the twine had made it 3-0 and effectively ended the game with nine and a half minutes left.  Leino, on the other hand, continues to impress this postseason, tallying 11 points in 11 playoff games (3G 8A) after only tallying 11 points in 55 regular season games.  His confidence level is at an all-time high and it certainly is showing.  Not to mention, he may just have the best playoff beard on the team.  Back to the game, the Flyers carried the play for the remainder of the contest, and despite an awful start to the second game, managed to take it home by a score of 3-0.  Michael Leighton earned his second-consecutive postseason shutout by making 30 saves, and Jaroslav Halak earned his first ever loss this postseason when coming back to tend goal after being pulled from action in the previous game.  He was 2-0, he is now 2-1.  The Montreal goaltender made 20 saves on 23 shots.

So now, the Flyers have taken care of business in Philadelphia, and it’s up to the Canadiens to hold up their end of the bargain in Montreal.  It would certainly would behoove the Orange and Black to take at least one game in Montreal, because the last thing you want to happen is give the Canadiens any reason to believe they may be back in this series.  A lot will argue that they were the better team in Game Two – and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree – but they certainly have a ways to go to crack the Flyers’ defense, and, hopefully for the Orange and Black, they can up the ante a bit as the two teams head North of the border, and grab a stranglehold on this series.

By the way, just in case you’re wondering, Leighton’s playoff shutout streak currently sits at 165 minutes, and 50 seconds.  Wow.


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