Less than 15 minutes into Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal on Friday night, one had the right to at least wonder if Michael Leighton
would even start the second period.
Much like his teammates, the Philadelphia Flyers
goaltender got off to a rocky start as three pucks got past him in the first 14:10. But Leighton -- who replaced the injured Brian Boucher
in the midst of Game 5 on Monday -- settled down and stopped all 11 shots he faced over the final two periods, allowing his team to rally for a remarkable 4-3 win against the Boston Bruins
at TD Garden.
After Milan Lucic
scored his second goal of the night to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead at 14:10 of the opening period, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette
called his lone timeout. He used a portion of it to help put his goalie at ease.
"Laviolette came up to me and said, 'Just stick with it. You're fine. We're going to score some goals … just shut the door the rest of the game and we'll win this,'" Leighton said. "Sure enough, that's what happened. I felt comfortable even when we were down 3-0. I didn't feel I was playing bad."
James van Riemsdyk
started the rally with a huge goal at 17:12 of the first before Scott Hartnell
made it 3-2 just 2:49 into the second. Philadelphia held Boston to just six shots on goal in the middle 20 minutes, which certainly helped Leighton relax. Danny Briere
tied the game before the end of the period on a wraparound.
"I think they bailed me out the whole game," Leighton said of his teammates. "Tonight was not a goaltender's game. We played good offense, they played good offense. Our defense did a great job, too. There were not many shots in the second or in the third. It was a team game."
Leighton faced only five shots in the third period and received some help from the goal post when Lucic was denied of a hat trick about midway through. Simon Gagne
then sealed the history victory when he beat Tuukka Rask
on the power play at 12:52.
"I don't even know who scored that goal," Leighton said. "Obviously, our power play has been pretty solid. Anytime you're on the power play that late in the game, it's big."
Gagne's goal wasn't just big. It was one that allowed the Flyers to become the first team in 35 years to rally to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. It marked only the third time in NHL history that it's ever been done.
"It's unbelievable," Leighton said. "Who would have thought when we were down 3-0 to battle back? The odds were against us the whole time. Obviously, being down in the first period 3-0 was a big kick to the head. We stuck with it. We just did a great job.
"We knew we were right there and we knew we could play with them. We just took it one game at a time. We're a good team. To be able to battle back, it's a great feeling. It makes it even more special that we were down 3-0 and we battled back and won."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL