PHILADELPHIA – A blowout on Broad Street left the Montreal Canadiens wondering what hit them in a disastrous start to the NHL Eastern Conference final.
Michael Leighton, pressed into duty this spring after a run of injuries among Philadelphia’s goaltenders, posted his first career playoff shutout and the Flyers used second-period goals from James van Riemsdyk, Daniel Briere and Simon Gagne to rout the Canadiens 6-0 on Sunday night.
It got so bad, the 19,927 at the Wachovia Centre serenaded the Canadiens with their own fans’ “Ole Ole” fight song as the goals poured in and previously stellar goaltender Jaroslav Halak had to be pulled after allowing four goals on only 14 shots.
”I don’t have one for you,” said Montreal defenceman Hal Gill, when asked to if there was an explanation. ”But it’s one game in a series and we have to put it behind us and learn from it.
”We have to be a lot better, a lot sharper, play with a lot more edge and we have to be a lot more committed to what we’re doing. We didn’t have an edge tonight and we’ve got to get that.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Unless the Canadiens find an answer to the Flyers’ tight, physical defence and aggressive attacks to the net, they’ll be reeling by the time the series returns to Montreal on Thursday.
Braydon Coburn scored in the first period, when the Flyers had the edge in play despite being outshot 13-6, and Philadelphia nearly made it 2-0 when Gagne hit a post in the final minute.
Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux added goals in the third against Price, who let in two of 11 shots.
”You win 6-0, 13-0 or 1-0, it doesn’t matter, it’s a win,” said Giroux. ”We have to be ready for the next game.”
Both teams were coming off emotional Game 7 wins, but the Flyers looked to be soaring after becoming only the third team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit when they beat the Boston Bruins.
The Canadiens, by contrast, simply looked tired after knocking off both first-place Washington and defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh in successive rounds.
The upsets led to the unlikely scenario of eighth-seeded Montreal facing seventh-seeded Philadelphia in the conference final.
”That last game gave us a lot of confidence and we were flying out there,” said Philadelphia’s Ville Leino, who had a pair of assists. ”The other teams weren’t giving credit to the Canadiens. They were underdogs and they beat them, but we won’t make that same mistake.”
The Canadiens will try to shrug it off as a repeat of their opening game against Pittsburgh, when they looked left for dead after Halak was shelled and was replaced by Price before the team regrouped and won Game 2.
This time, the Canadiens outshot Philadelphia 28-25 overall, but the Flyers were in control all the way.
Leighton, who was briefly a Canadien two seasons ago although he didn’t play, had to be alert to get a leg on a Jaroslav Spacek shot that deflected twice and then stopped Scott Gomez in alone late in the first period.
Chris Pronger was sent off only 1:13 into the game, but the Canadiens power play had little time to work before Gomez took a roughing call.
Philadelphia opened the scoring on the ensuing power play. Leino’s shot dropped in the crease and the Flyers attacked, with Coburn banging the puck in at 3:55.
The floodgates opened in the second period. Just 30 seconds in, Giroux pushed the puck to the net off a faceoff and van Riemsdyk was there to score on his second crack at the puck.
Briere made it 3-0 when he walked off the left wall and picked the far corner one second after a power play ended at 4:23. Gagne then ended Halak’s night with a power-play goal, as he came off the right board to find the far corner with a wrist shot at 9:53.
It was Gagne’s fifth goal in five games since returning from a toe injury.
Hartnell put one in off a post at 12:13 and Giroux scored on a backhander at 13:26 of the third to compete the rout.
The Flyers had only one day of rest after their victory over Boston, while Montreal had been off since Wednesday.
”We have no concern about our goaltending,” said Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri. ”Jaro’s had pucks go in on him before and come back and played spectacular.Carey’s someone else we have confidence in. I don’t think he’s let in a goal in practice in two weeks. We love our goaltending.
“I don’t know exactly what it is. This team cares. The guys want to do the right things, but we weren’t sharp as we need to be on a lot of different levels. But it’s Game 1 . We have to regroup and get ready.”
Notes: Montreal moved rookie defenceman P.K. Subban to pair with veteran Roman Hamrlik, but they were on for Philadelphia’s first three goals. . . Linesman Steve Miller was clipped behind an ear in the third period, but after getting treatment, stayed in the game.