The Philadelphia Flyers
needed a shootout victory against the New York Rangers in the final hours of the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs.
Now they're one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
MORE: FLYERS GET A BOOST | SCRATCH TO STAR
scored twice and Michael Leighton
made 17 saves for his third shutout of the series as the Flyers took a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals with a 3-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens
in Game 4 at the Bell Centre on Saturday.
Ville Leino also scored for Philadelphia, which can seal the deal and earn its first trip to the Final since 1997 with a win in Game 5 at the Wachovia Center on Monday night.
Leighton became the first Flyer goaltender ever to earn three shutouts in a playoff series. He improved to 5-1 since taking over when Brian Boucher went down with an injury in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Boston.
"We were pretty tight defensively," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We didn't allow a lot of opportunities. The neutral zone was really tight, which eliminates rush opportunities.
"It was a good game. We need to stay focused and keep our eye dead ahead."
Montreal, which had only one shot on goal in the second period, rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the opening round to upset the Washington Capitals. Jaroslav Halak made 22 saves in Saturday's loss before Giroux hit the empty net with 1:13 left.
The Canadiens, who had never before been blanked three times in a series, are 5-0 this postseason when facing elimination.
"I think we'll have to regroup," Habs coach Jacques Martin said. "We know how we have to play and I think we have certain areas of our game that needs to be better. We'll analyze this game and dissect it and bring some solution and be ready to compete on Monday night."
Philadelphia broke a scoreless tie when Giroux notched his seventh goal of the playoffs at 5:41 of the second period. With the teams at even strength, Giroux took a pass from Kimmo Timonen
and blew down the left wing past Josh Gorges
and Hal Gill
before cutting in and beating Halak with a backhander as the Flyers took a 1-0 lead.
Leino made it 2-0 on a breakaway with 5:07 left in the second period. Montreal rookie PK Subban turned the puck over at the Flyers' blue line and Chris Pronger
made a superb pass to send Leino in alone down left wing. He made a nifty move to beat Halak on the forehand for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
"We were on the right side of the puck and winning the battles along the boards," said Leino, who was acquired from Detroit in February and began the postseason as a healthy scratch. "We were making smart plays and it gave us some good chances. We scored some goals."
Montreal was held without a shot on goal for more than 13 minutes before Maxim Lapierre's wrister from the left circle was denied by Leighton. Overall, the Habs were outshot 13-1 in the second period.
"We just didn't execute," forward Brian Gionta
said. "We just got impatient. Since the second period, we were trying to make too many plays at the blue line and against this team, they are going to step up. They've got a good enough group of guys that can make plays when you turn pucks over."
Giroux secured the victory with an empty-net goal at 18:47 of the third period. It was his second two-goal game of the postseason.
Gill prevented a goal midway through the first period when he dove in the crease to deny Danny Briere
on the power play. The Flyers mustered only two shots on goal while Marc-Andre Bergeron served a holding penalty.
Philadelphia, which is 18-2 when leading 3-1 in a series, received a huge boost on Saturday as both Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere
surprisingly returned to the lineup. They replaced Daniel Carcillo and Andreas Nodl
"When you turn the puck over, you feed into their game and we didn't do that," said Pronger, who rebounded from a poor showing in Game 3. "We got our feet moving again, got into the transition game and didn't turn pucks over. That's a big part of why we won."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Shift of the Game:
Looking for what had been an elusive first goal, Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux
got his team on the board 5:41 into the second period in gorgeous fashion. Giroux, the team's first-round selection in 2006, used his speed to roar down left wing past Canadiens defensemen Josh Gorges
and Hal Gill
, then cut in and tucked a backhand shot past Jaroslav Halak for his seventh goal of the playoffs.