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No rally necessary: Flyers rout Habs in opener

by Shawn P. Roarke /
PHILADELPHIA -- After becoming just the third team in NHL history to rally from a three-games-to-none deficit to win a best-of-7 series, the Philadelphia Flyers wanted to make sure they didn't have to repeat that incredible feat in the Eastern Conference Final.


So 48 hours after a high-wire escape in Boston in Game 7 -- which featured a four-goal comeback -- to just keep the pursuit of the Stanley Cup alive, the Flyers used the impetus of an opportunistic power play against the undisciplined Montreal Canadiens to march to a 6-0 victory in Sunday's Game 1 at the Wachovia Center.

"They came out hard," Montreal goalie Carey Price said. "They came off an emotional Game 7 and it showed. They were ready."

The fact that Price, the Canadiens' backup, was in a position to be an authority on Sunday's game just illustrates how ready the Flyers were in Game 1.

"Obviously, we're pretty high after that (Game 7), but I never really expected to come out with a game like that -- Game 1, especially," said Philadelphia's James van Riemsdyk, who scored Philadelphia's second goal, just 30 seconds into the second period. "Obviously we did some good things out there and need to keep it going."

Game 2 of this historic best-of-7 series is Tuesday night.

Philadelphia is the first No. 7 seed to host a third-round series in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Montreal, the No. 8 seed, only needed to knock off the top-seeded Washington Capitals and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins -- each in seven games -- to book this date.

Philadelphia stormed the crease of starter Jaroslav Halak on Sunday to rattle the Canadiens' star goalie and, as a result, he allowed 4 goals on 14 shots before being pulled at the 29:53 mark. The team also scored two power-play goals and added another goal one second after a third penalty expired.

Price mopped up in this game, allowing two goals on 11 shots as Montreal suffered its worst loss of what has been an up-and-down postseason. Halak has now been pulled once in each of Montreal's three series, but has responded with a win in his next start in each of the previous two rounds.

Nobody was blaming Halak on this night.

"I think tonight we didn't play a team game," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said in bluntly assessing his team's performance. "We played an individual game, and you can't be successful that way."

Actually, Montreal held the advantage in play throughout much of the first period but couldn't solve Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton, who recorded his first playoff shutout in just his third start. Leighton was pressed into service during Game 5 against Boston when starter Brian Boucher suffered a knee injury.

"I think the story for that game is Leights played awesome, he shut the door," said defenseman Braydon Coburn, who scored a power-play goal at the 3:55 mark of the first to open the scoring. "He was real solid and square on the shooter the whole time, and didn't give them a lot of opportunities. When they had a chance on the power play he was there and he was huge, and I thought he made some pretty big key saves for us."

Leighton did enough to allow the Flyers to survive a rocky first period in which they were outshot 13-6 and outplayed for vast stretches of time.

"I don't think we played very well in the first period and the message was there from the coach when we came back in the room," Flyers center Claude Giroux said. "In the second period, I think we just kept it simple and started working the way we did against Boston. Any time we keep it simple and work hard, things happen for us."

They happened fast and furious during the final 40 minutes of Sunday's game.

The onslaught began with a set play just 30 seconds into the period when Giroux won a faceoff and pushed the puck forward to a waiting van Riemsdyk, who took two whacks at the puck before pushing it past Halak.

Less than four minutes later, Danny Briere scored with a hard shot from the right circle. Gagne followed at the 9:53 mark with a score from the opposite circle -- again through traffic to chase Halak. Scott Hartnell and Giroux added the goals against Price.

But when all the scoring was complete, Philadelphia wasn't ready to sit on its laurels. The Flyers know the Bruins thought they had them buried in the last round. Plus, they know that Montreal has wiggled away from 3-1 and 3-2 series deficits in the first two rounds.

"You know what, it is only one game," Giroux said. "You can win 6-0 or 1-0, it's still just a win and you have to be ready to go for next game."

And history suggests Montreal will be ready come Tuesday night.

Montreal lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, 6-3 in Pittsburgh, allowing four power-play goals in as many opportunities. Like Sunday night, Halak was pulled in that loss, allowing 5 goals on 20 shots. Yet, the Canadiens found a way to rally, winning four of the next six games against a battle-tested team that had advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in each of the past two seasons.

But the Canadiens know they will have to be better in Game 2 if they want to follow that script yet again.

"Our group does a good job of facing adversity," said Montreal's Michael Cammalleri, who was held to just one shot Sunday after scoring a dozen goals in the first two rounds. "This is no different. I don't think we're going to push any panic buttons because it's still early. You've got to win four games."

Shift of the game:
Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn had never scored a goal in 32 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, but that didn't stop him from skating down from the blue line during a Flyers' power play in the first period. Coburn put himself in position to whack in a loose puck in front of Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak to open the scoring in what turned into a 6-0 rout for the home team.

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