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Flyers getting special play from their special teams

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Flyers getting special play from their special teams
Philadelphia's special teams are a big reason the Flyers are halfway to the Stanley Cup Final.
PHILADELPHIA  -- The Montreal Canadiens were on the receiving end of yet another special delivery by the Philadelphia Flyers.

On a night when the Flyers just didn't seem to generate much offense 5-on-5 and their best player was goalie Michael Leighton, they turned to their specialty teams to steal Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Philadelphia went 2-for-4 with the man advantage while denying all four Montreal power plays en route to a 3-0 victory at the Wachovia Center. The Flyers, who have held Montreal scoreless on eight power-play attempts in the series, now lead 2-0 as the series moves to Montreal for Game 3 Thursday night.

"We just want to keep it simple and we're shooting the puck a lot more," Flyers forward Claude Giroux said. "Any time you shoot the puck more, you're going to have a better chance at scoring and the puck is finding the holes right now."

The Flyers scored 2 power-play goals on six shots against the Canadiens Tuesday after getting two on nine shots en route to a 6-0 win two nights earlier.

After struggling early in the previous round against Boston, the Flyers' power play is hitting its stride.

"I felt early in our series with Boston (in the conference semifinals), we were struggling getting into the zone on the power play but we've been getting better and better," said center Danny Briere, who opened the scoring 4:16 into the game with the first power-play goal. "It's not like we were coming into an easier series, either. Montreal has had a good penalty kill all year and one of best power plays. So, after two games, to win the special-teams battle goes a long way and puts us in a good spot.

"I think even in our first game, we scored a few goals right when the penalty expired and Ville (Leino's) goal (on Tuesday) came right when their player was stepping on the ice. To win the special teams battle, especially when you're not at your best, it feels good to be up 2-0 and taking care of home ice."

The contest took on an eerily familiar look to Game 1 when the Canadiens earned an early power play, only to have it negated by a Scott Gomez penalty less than a minute later. On the ensuing advantage, the Flyers grabbed the lead on Briere's goal -- and once again, it was all goalie Michael Leighton needed.

Briere got his fourth goal in four games when he snapped a shot from the right of the slot that beat Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak over his glove into the top right corner. Simon Gagne scored on his team's second power play, swatting in a rebound at 15:49 of the second.

That goal seemed to deflate the Canadiens, who outshot the Flyers 16-6 in the opening period and had allowed just 10 shots before Gagne's goal.

The Flyers' penalty kill denied the Canadiens' power-play unit three times in the first when Leighton was the team's best penalty-killer. Leighton, who finished the game with 30 saves, stopped eight shots with his team a man short in the opening period, including six straight in a span of 1:06 after Leino went off for holding at 7:11.

The Flyers entered the contest first among the four remaining teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 22.7 percent power-play efficiency. The Flyers and the Canadiens both finished among the top three in the League on the power play during the regular season. Montreal was second at 21.8 percent, just ahead of the Flyers at 21.4 percent.

But in this series, the special-teams battle has been all Flyers.

"We've got a lot of skill (on the power play)," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "We've got two great units and we can really move the puck. But it's key for any power play to get the puck to the front, to get guys to the front, to get some rebounds and we can do a great job with that."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

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