Flyers Survive in Shutout; Lead 2-0

By JAY BOEHMER
Staff Writer — jboehmer@highhopesblog.com

_______

Michael Leighton salutes the crowd after his second-straight shutout. (Photo: David Mialetti/ Philly.com)

Everyone: sportswriters, players, coaches, and managers alike were all in unanimous agreement on one thing: Montreal would not roll over and die.  They would not allow the Flyers to take advantage of them so easily.

Unfortunately for the Habs, it wasn’t up to them to decide.

Don’t get me wrong, they showed themselves to be a far more competitive team in this Game 2 matchup; but it was all in vain.

The first period started off as a carbon copy of the series opener, with a Flyers defenseman, Lukas Krajicek, marching to the penalty box.  The Flyers drew a penalty with their aggressive kill, ending Montreal’s power play chance.  During their condensed power play, Claude Giroux fed Danny Briere across the high slot on a rush into the zone.  Briere created space for himself with a head fake before firing a wrist shot over the shoulder of Jaroslav Halak for another early lead.

Continuing to mirror Game 1, the Flyers were well outshot by their opponents through the opening period.  Michael Leighton, seemingly never out of position, was as solid as can be.

He was forced to continue that play into the second as the Canadiens continued to push.  They were much tighter defensively than in Sunday’s 6-0 blowout, keeping the Flyers from passing easily across neutral ice and into their zone.

Philadelphia stayed alive with a series of fast moving chances on the rush, using their defensive quarterbacks to spring the forwards with accurate stretch passes.  This ability to turn up-ice and make a seemingly tame regroup turn deadly so quickly forces the Montreal defense to respect them and give them space, making the simpler plays that much easier.

With a few minutes remaining in the period, one of these chances left Brian Gionta lagging behind and forced to take a holding penalty.  After some time spent cycling in the offensive zone, Mike Richards fed a sneaky pass out front to Ville Leino from below the goal line, creating a scrambling opportunity.  Simon Gagne stepped in from the side to bury the puck for a late period 2-0 lead.

As each team settled into the third period, Montreal’s defensive leader Hal Gill took an interference penalty.  The Flyers were unable to capitalize on the ensuing power play, but the chances they generated left the Canadiens exhausted and forced to change, affording Ville Leino some space down the left wing as he picked the opposite corner against Halak, who seemed unprepared and shook up by the wide angle shot.

In a pleasant change of pace, the Flyers seemed in control of the third period, getting the majority of the shots and keeping Montreal from setting up the way they would like.  With a three goal lead, they needed only to fall back to hold the Habs off and let Michael Leighton take care of the rest.

With a two games to none series lead, this Flyers team needs to keep the pressure on.  The Canadiens aren’t the only team this year to come back from a hefty series deficit, as Montreal climbed from a 3-1 hole against Washington in the Quarterfinals.  Knowing that, and having gone through what this team went through against Boston, two games seems like nothing.

The sentiment in the Flyers locker room is not one of content.  They know that they haven’t yet showed their true colors and played a full sixty minutes of their best hockey.  Yet somehow they remain ahead two games without giving up a single goal.  Things can only go up from there.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

 

Danny Briere: Continuing to be a clutch performer, Briere piles up points when his team needs them.  Out of the Flyers 10 wins, he holds 4 game winning goals and sits tied for second in points among remaining playoff contenders with 18.

Special Teams: Unofficially, the Flyers are 5 for 10 on the power play, with one goal coming a mere second after the man advantage came to an end.  This impressive stat, combined with a perfect 8 for 8 on the penalty kill, leaves the Flyers special teams as the obvious difference maker in this series so far.

Michael Leighton: Likely to show up on this list more often than not, Leighton stepped up with another big game.  His solid, reliable play kept his team alive until they were able to put the Canadiens away in the third period.  Oddly enough, he is the first goalie to put up back to back shutout wins in the playoffs since1975 when the Conn Smythe, Stanley Cup winning Flyer by the name of Bernie Parent did just the same.

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