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Leighton not quite good enough in Game 2

by Shawn P. Roarke
CHICAGO --  Better was just not good enough for Michael Leighton in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Philadelphia Flyers goalie was infinitely better in Monday night's game at the United Center than the player who was strafed for five goals on just 20 shots and pulled in the second period of Saturday's Game 1, a wild-and-wacky 6-5 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

But Leighton still wasn't good enough to come out on the winning end, dropping a 2-1 decision Monday after allowing both goals in a stunning 28-second sequence late in the second period. Philadelphia now goes home for Wednesday's Game 3 (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) facing a two-games-to-none deficit against a Blackhawks team that has won seven-straight postseason games and lost just once in its past 11 outings.

Despite making 26 saves in the game and stopping the first 20 saves of the contest, Leighton wasn't one to be consoled much by the concept of a bounce-back effort.

"Well, I didn't give up five and didn't get pulled, so, yeah," Leighton said when asked if he rebounded well from Saturday's disaster. "But we didn't win, so obviously I'm not too happy."

Leighton's especially unhappy with the 28-second blitzkrieg by Chicago that turned what had been a cautiously played game right on its ear.

Marian Hossa started things with a rebound goal at the 17:09 mark of the second when he swooped in to claim a loose rebound and lift it over a scrambling Leighton.

It would only get worse from there.

The sold-out United Center crowd hadn't even settled down from dancing to "Chelsea Dagger" -- Chicago's goal-celebration song -- when Ben Eager sent a whistling wrist shot through a screen provided by backtracking defenseman Matt Carle and into the top corner of the net for a 2-0 lead that had Philadelphia holding on for dear life for the final 2:23 of the period.

Eager had scored just one goal in the past two months and had just one assist in his previous 13 playoff outings this spring. But on this occasion, Eager looked like a 50-goal scorer as he threaded the shot top-shelf over Leighton, who dropped to his knees just an instance too soon.

"I think we had a turnover at the blue line and he used the 'D' as a screen and made a good shot," Leighton said. "I didn't see him release the puck. Obviously, I saw it when it went through my D-man. I'm not saying he's an Alex Ovechkin, but that is how he scores a lot of his goals -- he drags it and then uses the 'D' as a screen."

As Eager celebrated to the left of Leighton, the Flyer goalie looked slightly shell-shocked as he knelt in his crease, watching the United Center erupt into delirium.

"It was just tough giving up two goals that quick," Leighton said. "We thought we played well in the first and boom, they scored a good goal and we give up one right away, and that took the wind out of our sail a little bit."

But neither Leighton nor the Flyers gave up after that quick-strike disaster.

"It's part of the game," defenseman Chris Pronger said of Chicago's eruption. "We have all been through it numerous occasions. I don't think anybody was frazzled, worried, deflated, if that is the word you want to use. I don't think we responded deflated.

"We came back on the next shift and had a good shift. Things like that are going to happen in this game. You can't worry about it. You can't get too high or too low. You have to play with that passion and drive every shift."

In fact, the Flyers did everything they could to pick up Leighton, who -- despite the final score -- did show that bounce-back ability that has earned him the trust and confidence of his teammates during this playoff run.

"It's not the ideal position (down 2-0), but it's part of the game," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who added Leighton played a very solid game. "We had a lot of time to get it back and actually when we scored to make it 2-1, I thought we were going to tie it for sure. We had some chances at the end, but (Chicago goalie Antti) Niemi was pretty good at the end."

Philadelphia owned the third-period, outshooting Chicago, 15-4, and scoring a power-play goal by Simon Gagne to cut the lead in half. But they could not find the equalizer, no matter how hard they pressed.

Now, Leighton knows he has virtually no margin for error remaining. No longer can he -- or the Flyers -- simply be good. They must be great to beat this Western Conference powerhouse. Only two of 33 teams to fall into a 0-2 hole on the road in the history of the Stanley Cup Final have rallied to win the Stanley Cup.

Ever the fighter, Leighton insists he and his team are ready for that daunting challenge.

"We came out in third and played the third period the way we can," Leighton said. "At least that is a positive. We are going in the right direction going back home. We're still confident.

"We played the third period like we should. We dominated the third period and we couldn't get a bounce and get a goal. If we put 60 minutes together like that, we are confident we can beat any team."

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