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Leighton's legend continues to grow

by Mike G. Morreale
MONTREAL -- The legend of Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton continues to grow.

The journeyman goalie-turned-overnight-sensation became the first goalie in team history to record three shutouts in one playoff series on Saturday after turning aside 17 shots en route to a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Bell Centre.
The Flyers now lead the series 3-1 and can wrap up a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with a win at home on Monday night.

The Habs hadn't been shut out three times in a playoff series in their history before Leighton, a native of Petrolia, Ont., entered the picture this season. He has shut out the Canadiens in nine of 12 periods of this best-of-7 series and is now one win away -- perhaps another shutout in fact -- from playing in his first Stanley Cup Final.

Leighton, who hadn't played a single second of Stanley Cup hockey before this season, is now 5-1 with a 1.37 goals-against average, a .951 save percentage and three shutouts -- plus a piece of a fourth. Don't forget, he also combined for a shutout in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins after replacing an injured Brian Boucher early in the second period.

Incredibly, Leighton is just one shutout from equaling the team record set by Hall of Famer Bernie Parent during Philadelphia's Cup run in 1975. Parent had four shutouts in 15 games that year with a 1.89 GAA and .922 save percentage.

Leighton, who has stopped 103 of 108 shots in this series and 249 of 272 shots in his six playoff games, spoke to the media following his history-making victory.

Q: Michael, you guys talked about coming back and learning your lesson. How good does it feel that you guys learned your lesson and were able to bounce back (Saturday)?

Leighton: It feels good, obviously. But I think we had confidence, and we were obviously disappointed with that last loss (in Game 3). We didn't want to feel that way again. We knew this was a real big game for us. If they win, we're 2-2 going back home.  So this was a good boost for us; we definitely showed up to play tonight right from the start.

Q: Michael, to have another shutout, three in four games, for yourself it was relatively easy except for that flurry. What were your thoughts about the shutout and getting another run going?

Obviously it's nice any time you get a shutout. But I'm not really concerned about shutouts right now. I'm concerned about winning. If we would have won 5-1, I would have been just as happy. We're looking at the next game. I'm not even thinking about that going into that game, and hopefully we play a similar game as we did (Saturday).

Q: Talk a little bit about the defense and everyone playing in front of you tonight. With all the blocked shots (27) that they had, how big of a help is that to play a good game that you did play?

Leighton: Obviously, that was one of our main goals was to play better defensively. We definitely did that. I don't know how many times they came down the wing trying to fire pucks at me, and we had their "D" men who stuck their stick out and it went up in the crowds. We talked right before the game, and said we want to block as many shots and stop them charging the net, and we definitely did that. Our "D" did a great job doing that, and our forwards at the point were doing a good job blocking shots too.

Q: Can you talk about the impact of Ian (Laperriere) coming back and, obviously, Jeff Carter too?

Leighton: Obviously, both those players are impact players. They were a big part of where we are today and during the season. You know, to have them both back at the same time was a good confidence booster to us; and both of them played great. For being off so long, they both jumped right in the lineup and did what they've been doing all year. We felt more confident with them in the lineup, and they did great for us tonight.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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