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Leighton personifies Flyers' rally by hanging tough

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

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Leighton personifies Flyers' rally by hanging tough
Game 7 didn’t start the way the Flyers or goalie Michael Leighton would have hoped, as the Bruins built a three-goal lead in the first 15 minutes. But Leighton gave up nothing after that, allowing Philadelphia to rally for a 4-3 win that completed their comeback from a 3-0 series deficit.
BOSTON -- Less than 15 minutes into Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal on Friday night, one had the right to at least wonder if Michael Leighton would even start the second period.
Much like his teammates, the Philadelphia Flyers goaltender got off to a rocky start as three pucks got past him in the first 14:10. But Leighton -- who replaced the injured Brian Boucher in the midst of Game 5 on Monday -- settled down and stopped all 11 shots he faced over the final two periods, allowing his team to rally for a remarkable 4-3 win against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
After Milan Lucic scored his second goal of the night to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead at 14:10 of the opening period, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette called his lone timeout. He used a portion of it to help put his goalie at ease.
"Laviolette came up to me and said, 'Just stick with it. You're fine. We're going to score some goals … just shut the door the rest of the game and we'll win this,'" Leighton said. "Sure enough, that's what happened. I felt comfortable even when we were down 3-0. I didn't feel I was playing bad."
James van Riemsdyk started the rally with a huge goal at 17:12 of the first before Scott Hartnell made it 3-2 just 2:49 into the second. Philadelphia held Boston to just six shots on goal in the middle 20 minutes, which certainly helped Leighton relax. Danny Briere tied the game before the end of the period on a wraparound.
"I think they bailed me out the whole game," Leighton said of his teammates. "Tonight was not a goaltender's game. We played good offense, they played good offense. Our defense did a great job, too. There were not many shots in the second or in the third. It was a team game."
Leighton faced only five shots in the third period and received some help from the goal post when Lucic was denied of a hat trick about midway through. Simon Gagne then sealed the history victory when he beat Tuukka Rask on the power play at 12:52.
"I don't even know who scored that goal," Leighton said. "Obviously, our power play has been pretty solid. Anytime you're on the power play that late in the game, it's big."
Gagne's goal wasn't just big. It was one that allowed the Flyers to become the first team in 35 years to rally to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. It marked only the third time in NHL history that it's ever been done.
"It's unbelievable," Leighton said. "Who would have thought when we were down 3-0 to battle back? The odds were against us the whole time. Obviously, being down in the first period 3-0 was a big kick to the head. We stuck with it. We just did a great job.
"We knew we were right there and we knew we could play with them. We just took it one game at a time. We're a good team. To be able to battle back, it's a great feeling. It makes it even more special that we were down 3-0 and we battled back and won."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

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World Cup of Hockey 2016