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Flyers determined to eliminate Montreal in Game 5

by John McGourty /
VOORHEES, N.J. -- If there's one thing the Philadelphia Flyers learned from their historic rally against the Boston Bruins earlier this month, when they became only the third team in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to rally from a 3-0 series deficit, it's that this is no time to take their skates off the throats of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Flyers hold a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals and have every intention of eliminating the Canadiens on Monday night at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center (7 p.m., Versus, CBC, RDS). It's not because they believe it will be easy, after taking Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia and Game 4 in Montreal, all shutouts.

It's because they're well aware the Canadiens have the ability to reach deep within themselves and post another shellacking, like their 5-1 victory Thursday in Game 3. The Flyers know the Canadiens came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Washington Capitals in the first round and a 3-2 deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"We all know the fourth one, the last one, is the toughest one to win," said left wing Simon Gagne, who is tied for seventh in the playoffs with seven goals despite missing four games, and has 10 points in 12 games.

"We are the perfect example. We came back from a three-nothing lead. You could ask Boston that and they will tell you that. We learned a lot of things from winning that Game 7 in Boston. We will try to use it on the other side. We are going to try to play our best game tomorrow night and close the series here."

"That was a key game yesterday, to be able to leave their building with that third win," said Danny Briere, second in the playoffs with 9 goals and fifth with 18 points. "But we all know that the last one will be the toughest one to get. We also realize what Montreal has gone through previously in their previous rounds, Washington and Pittsburgh, so we can't take them lightly. Also, what happened to us with Boston, it's never over until the end. We don't want to get too high or too confident. There's still one big one left and probably the hardest to get."

Gagne said the Flyers played their best game of the series in Saturday's Game 4, 3-0 shutout and were lucky to win, scoring twice on Canadiens' mistakes and once into an empty net.

Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges stumbled, allowing Claude Giroux to go around him for the first goal. Then, Canadiens defenseman PK Subban coughed up the puck to Chris Pronger at the Flyers' blue line and Pronger passed into Subban's vacated position at right defense, hitting a flying Ville Leino for a less-than-artistic stuff past Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak. Giroux then outraced Jaroslav Spacek to score the empty-netter.

"Good defense brings some good offense," Gagne said. "That's what we did yesterday, a game on the road with not too many chances offensively. But when you play good defense, you get those breaks and that's what happened, especially on the second goal. … We got some defense and Ville (Leino) was able to put it in.

"We were not too happy about the first two games in Philly. The reason we won those two games was (goalie) Michael Leighton and that's where the credit goes for those two games. Our special teams did a good job too. We have to say that, too. Our power play did a good job and were able to score some big goals for us. Our penalty killers did some good things against their power play.

"(Game 4) was a team effort. For 60 minutes, you could tell from the drop of the puck that we were ready to play our game. Initiate, not waiting to see what they were going to do. Not waiting to see what the crowd's going to do in Montreal. We just went after them and we all know the story: We came up with the win. It was a tight game, not too many chances on both sides but we got a couple of chances and were able to score on those."

The Flyers said they were buoyed by the return from injuries of center Jeff Carter and right wing Ian Laperriere in Game 4. Laperriere, returning from a brain contusion resulting from blocking a shot with his forehead in the first-round victory over New Jersey, shored up the checking line but didn't take his regular shifts on the penalty kill.

Carter took six shots, four on net, threw four hits, blocked two shots and won three of his four faceoffs. But it was his move on Travis Moen at 13:30 of the first period, resulting in a shot on Halak, which had Carter, his teammates and Flyers fans believing he was back and ready to play after suffering broken bones in both feet in the last couple of months. 

"I think it feels better than I expected and it felt better than I expected (yesterday)," Carter said. "It's getting better every day.

"It took me a couple of shifts to get my feet underneath me. Coming back from any injury is tough, but coming back in that situation I was pretty nervous and didn't want to make a mistake my first couple of shifts. On that power play, you get to feel the puck a little more and to get a little move like that kind of builds confidence and it set the tone for me for the rest of the game."

"It's going to help, that's for sure," Gagne said. "You're talking about two guys that play a big role on the team. 'Lappy' plays very well on the checking line, against the best players on the other teams. He's very good on (penalty killing) and he likes to block shots, we all know that. He's a big, big part of our team and to see him back is definitely a big plus.

"Having Jeff Carter back, he's our goal scorer, scored most of the goals for us this year. That gives us a lot more options on the power play and 5-on-5. It's almost like perfect timing for us to get those two guys back. It's good for us to see them play and feeling good about (yesterday)."

"We are the perfect example. We came back from a three-nothing lead. You could ask Boston that and they will tell you that. We learned a lot of things from winning that Game 7 in Boston. We will try to use it on the other side. We are going to try to play our best game tomorrow night and close the series here" -- Simon Gagne
While the Flyers' players were upbeat, confident and focused in their remarks, coach Peter Laviolette seemed uncharacteristically taciturn, giving short answers and emphasizing team play over individual efforts, particularly when asked to wax rhapsodic over the performances of Leighton and Giroux, who is in his first full NHL season and ranks fourth in the playoffs with 8 goals and tied for eighth with 16 points.

"(Giroux's) an impact player," Laviolette conceded.

When asked if he's reminded his players about Montreal's comebacks in the first two rounds, Laviolette replied, "We prepare for everything."

Laviolette undoubtedly delivered the same message to his players as he gave the media.

"We've been successful as a team when our team has played a certain style and a certain way," Laviolette said. "It's not about one person. You need your goaltender to be one of your top players every night. He and everyone else's effort was improved in Game 4."

Laviolette, who coached the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup, did have one surprise. While every player said they can't afford to be looking past the Canadiens in Game 5, Laviolette said it's obvious that players dream of playing in the Stanley Cup Final and there's nothing wrong with that.

"Players know what's at stake," Laviolette said. "I don't think it's wrong to dream, to go down that road and allow yourself to play the game hard because you want to move on. It's the planning, the who's, and where's, and when. Every team sets out at the beginning of the year to win the Stanley Cup. It's OK to say, 'We need to win one game, tomorrow night, so that we can move on.' By moving on, you get that right to fight for it."

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