Flyers, Leighton demolish Halak and Habs in series opener

Michael Leighton makes one of the 22 saves he faced Sunday night against the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. (Getty)

If anyone went around the internet or television to preview this Eastern Conference matchup between the Flyers and Habs, all the ‘experts’ came around to the same key for the Flyers to win: Get to Jaroslav Halak.

Oh, did the Flyers ever take that advice to the bank.

The Flyers had talked about getting in front of Halak, developing quality chances, and letting the Habs know their going to hit the net hard.

“I’m a believer that the more you get at the net, the better chance you have in scoring,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “Certainly, you want quality opportunities and quality chances. And we had some, but I think there is room for improvement there with our attempts at their net.”

Well, in the end the NHL playoffs best goaltender up until last night surrendered four goals on just 14 shots and was yanked for backup Carey Price during the Flyers 6-0 stomping in Game 1 of the Eastern Conf. finals Sunday night.

“I don’t think it was easy,” Flyers captain Mike Richards offered. “We had a couple bounces and a couple nice shots. We capitalized on our power plays we were given. They came out strong, controlled play most of the first period. We were opportunistic.”

Halak was pulled after a three-goal attack early in the second period. Now, the issue for both teams is, where does this latest ousting put Halak mentally?

“It’s only the first game,” said Simon Gagne, who netted his fifth goal on the power-play in that second period. “You can’t blame him on some of those goals. A lot of them were screens in front of him. Two of them were on the power play and we know our power play has been pretty good lately.”

The Flyers should’ve known things were going good when they struck first early in the first when defenseman Braydon Coburn knocked in a rebound at 3:55 on the power-play.

Rookie James van Riemsdyk scored his second goal in as many games when he put a wrist shot past Halak 30 seconds into the second period. Less than four minutes later, Danny Briere would continue his playoff tear by ripping a wicked slap-shot over the right shoulder of Halak to make 3-0.

Simon Gagne celebrates his second period power-play goal. (Getty)

Gagne would later add the Flyers second power-play goal of the night which led to Halak getting pulled. However, the Flyers have to feel pretty happy about their man-advantage starting off efficiently scoring twice on nine opportunities.

“[The power play] wasn’t going as well in the Boston series and we were able to find a way through that series,” Briere said. “Our power play was great tonight. We’re going to need that because Montreal has a very good power play and [penalty kill], as well.

While the Habs had their goaltending issues, on the other side of the rink, the Flyers had no problem with their number one in Michael Leighton. The Flyers netminder recorded his first career playoff shutout, stopping all 22 shots sent his away. Especially the 13 he faced in the first period.

“They had a couple good chances in the first period,” Leighton said. “I was seeing the pucks. They don’t have the big presence like Boston did in front of the net. I was looking over some of their guys, seeing the pucks and we were still blocking shots. I just had to make the saves I should make in the first and we kinda took over from there.”

“I think the story for that game is Leights played awesome, he shut the door,” said Coburn. “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.”

Philadelphia’s defense was a key to last night’s game. Michael Cammalleri, who came into game 1 Sun. night with 12 postseason goals, was non-existent for the whole night getting held to just one shot.

Game 2 is going to be a different story. You’d have to think so, right? It’s tough to believe the Habs will take this loss to heart and come out lost in the second game of this series Tuesday night.

Remember, the Canadiens lost game 1 in both the Washington and Pittsburgh series before coming back to win each series.

I personally think the Flyers are a different animal than those other two teams. The key to the Flyers staying level-headed will be coach Laviolette. He has a real good feel for his squad and game two is probably more important at this juncture.

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