The Philadelphia Flyers
and the Eastern Conference Finals have been a perfect match so far. Tuesday's 3-0 victory against Montreal in Game 2 at the Wachovia Center is just the latest piece of supporting evidence.
With the win, Philadelphia swept the first two games of the series by a stunning 9-0 margin and head to Montreal for Thursday's Game 3 of this best-of-7 series with a six-game winning streak, a franchise-record run of 13 unanswered goals and a shutout streak of 165:50.
MORE COVERAGE: LEIGHTON STILL PERFECT | BLOG
ll of those impressive marks date back to Game 7 of the last round when the Flyers erased a three-game series deficit against the Boston Bruins with a historic come-from-behind 4-3 win in Game 7, allowing Philadelphia to become just the third team in the history of the NHL to survive a 3-0 deficit.
Apparently, that which does not kill you does make you stronger.
"Well, it's definitely a good feeling," center Danny Briere
said of the two-game lead.
But with the memory of their own potential Waterloo against Boston fresh in their mind, as well as the knowledge that these Canadiens have been impossible to kill this postseason – they are 5-0 in elimination games – the Flyers refuse to get caught up in the fact that they are just two wins from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1997.
"You look at the two teams that are here right now, both teams know that that can go away quick," Briere said. "We came back. Montreal came back a couple times. They were down 3-1, 3-2 against very good teams before. So we're not going to sit back. We saw what we were able to do to Boston. So the worst thing we could do right now is sit back.
"The thing that I like is the fact that we all feel like we haven't played our best games yet, and we still have a lot to prove. So I think that's a positive that we still have more in the tank. You know, we want to prove that we've been winning, but it's not just a fluke."
There has been nothing fluky about the Flyers in the first two games of this series. They have been better in every facet of the game -- and have been especially dominant in the goaltending battle and on special teams.
In Game 2, goalie Michael Leighton
kept Philadelphia in the game until its special teams could take over.
Leighton stopped 16 shots in the first period – including a testing six-shot barrage on Philadelphia's second penalty of the game -- and finished with 30 saves.
"Well, today we had one good player out there, obviously we know it was Leighton, and the rest of us, we were average," defenseman Kimmo Timonen
Leighton has been Philadelphia's best player since he was thrust into action in Game 5 as an injury replacement for Brian Boucher. He won in relief that night and has not lost in his four starts. In his five appearances, he has put up a 0.87 goals-against average and .969 save percentage.
He has stopped 70 consecutive shots and has not allowed a goal since Boston's Milan Lucic scored 14:10 into the first period of Game 7. The streak of 165:50 is the second- longest in franchise history behind Boucher, and he is the first Flyer goalie since the legendary Bernie Parent in 1975 to post consecutive playoff shutouts.
"To me, tonight, he looked as good as I've seen him," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "He was very calm in there, very relaxed, and in complete control of that net and everything that went on around it. He was really strong."
Almost as strong as Philadelphia's special teams, which have dominated both games.
Philadelphia's first two goals Tuesday night – by Briere and Simon Gagne – came on the power play. On Sunday night, Philadelphia scored a pair of power-play goals and added another just one second after the expiration of another penalty. Overall, Philadelphia is 4-for-10 with the man advantage in this series. The Flyers also have successfully killed all eight Montreal power plays in the series.
"Special teams (were) the difference tonight," Montreal coach Jacques Martin.
There could be an argument made that Montreal played far better in Game 2 and would have had a chance to win if not for Philadelphia's power-play prowess. In fact, it was an argument Montreal defenseman Hal Gill
hinted at in the aftermath of the loss.
"It was an even game," Gill said. "Take away those (power-play goals), do a little better job on the PK and we're right in it."
But there is no taking away those power-play goals – or the third-period goal by Ville Leino that was the final nail on this night – especially because Briere and Gagne are the offensive engines driving the Flyers at the moment.
Briere, who scored a pretty goal with a nice deke on Gill 4:16 into the game, has 18 points in his last 11 playoff games. Gagne, who returned from a broken right two during the Bruins series, has six goals in as many outings, including his power-play swat past Jaroslav Halak 15:49 into the second period.
Yet, with all the good signs that popped out during the past 48 hours for the Flyers, they refuse to take anything for granted.
"We've been on the other side, and we know that until the other team closes the series it's not over," Gagne said. "For us, we did what we had to do here at home -- get those two wins.
"But at the same time we have a lot of things we can improve on our game, especially 5-on-5. We're up 2-0, but it doesn't mean anything. They're going to go back to Montreal and try to do the same thing that we did tonight."
Shift of the game:
Fittingly, it was turned in by Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton
, who has been the star for the first two games of this series. Montreal drew a power play midway through the first period, trailing 1-0. The Canadiens turned in their most sustained pressure of the series during the man-advantage, but Leighton denied all six shots -- Tomas Plekanec
in the slot, slappers by P.K. Subban
and Andrei Kostitsyn
and two great chances from Mike Cammalleri
, who had 12 goals in the first two rounds.