Flyers Shut Out Habs, Bring Series Back to Philly up 3-1

Flyers Shut Out Habs, Bring Series Back to Philly up 3-1

Less frequently than we might imagine, the final score of a hockey game says it all. Today's 3-0 Flyers blanking of the Habs is one of those occasions. There was no subplot in which the losing team played better but the winners had the lucky bounces. The Flyers dominated the Habs for the better part of 50 minutes after weathering a tentative start to the game in a hostile environment, and Michael Leighton has now put up three shutouts in four games this series. He's the first Flyers goalie to ever notch three perfect games in a playoff series. Welcome to history, Leights. You're in amazing company all of your own. 

After going from confident to cocky in less than a game, the Habs felt the bitter end of that pill in game 4.

Here's a look at the goals and storylines, including ... SANDGATE. 

Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere each played well in their respective returns for injury, and Claude Giroux was our hero on offense, ripping the skates off of Josh Gorges and then shelfing Jaroslav Halak for the opening goal. 

As you can see in the replay there, Giroux was barely a factor in the goal, so was the pass by Timonen; it was all the Gorges skate issue, right boys? /sarcasm

But for a quick memory refresher, it was Gorges who whacked Giroux in the mouth in game 3, breaking some teeth while Gorges laughed and wasn't penalized. Glad the Habs had a good time yukking it up in that game, because they got blown off their home ice in this one. 

Giroux would also score the game's final goal, a contested empty netter from the side board that drew the admiration of the NBC crew.

SANDGATE
One story we'll be interested to hear more about is the possibility that there was dirt or sand outside of the Flyers locker room. In the first period, multiple Flyers had to leave the ice because of skate blade issues, and the NBC crew alerted us to the fact that towels had to be placed over the runway outside the locker room because something was on the ground there. The Flyers wouldn't give much in the way of comments on the issue after the game, but there's no masking the fact that several guys had to leave the ice a few times to have their skates sharpened before they put those towels down. I guess 21,000 fans isn't enough of a home ice advantage. 

On the heels of a win, the Flyers had zero complaints when the mics were in front of them after the game. Some seemed to think there was something there, but wouldn't take the bait, while others had no idea where the sand questions were coming from. 

THE SHUTOUT SHUT UP
In this series, we've tried to equally credit Leighton and his defensemen, who've complemented each other well enough to generate three shutouts in four games. Tonight, the defense had incredibly active sticks, deflecting Montreal shots and breaking up rushes before they got too close to the cage. It was like a clinic out there, and it was the perfect answer to the defense's shakiest game in weeks. 

The Flyers closed out the first period strongly but again were outshot. They responded by smothering the sleeping Canadiens with a pillow in the second, outshooting them 13-1 in the frame. There's no taking anything away from the shutout goaltender, but Leighton had just 17 shots to stop in this one. Funny thing for us Flyers fans? The Leigh-taaauuuuoon chants by the Habs faithful that started with in the opening shifts and continued at various points throughout what would be a shut out. In Philly, we only do that when the other goalie gets touched up, and more so when he's torched. 

Chris Pronger logged 31 minutes of ice time in this one, a good three minutes more than his average in the playoffs. He also put a long breakout pass on the tape of Ville Leino for the Flyers' second goal, showing about the best accuracy with long-distance passing you could possibly ask for. Good recovery, Mav.

THE BEST OF RETURN TO FOREVER
So how about Lappy and Carter? There was some question as to whether they were rushed back for this game, but a 3-0 win should quiet any of that noise right quick. Lappy was strong and even mixed it up with Roman Hamrlik, taking the Habs d-man off with him for a pair of coincidentals. 

Carter was used in an interesting fashion early on, skating tiny shifts with several lines. Maybe it was to get the feel of the game back into his skates, but after seeing the Flyers shock everyone by pulling a bait and switch with his playing status, I saw that as further gamesmanship on the part of Peter Laviolette. The Canadiens had no ability to plan for Carter before the game, and then Lavvy wiped out their home ice second-change matchup ability in the first by switching up the lines fast and early. Carter was held without a point, but his shifts built up as the game went on, and he did manage 4 shots on goal, tying Mike Richards for the team lead in that category. 

After both of the first two shutout wins to start this series, the Flyers spoke about not being content with their performances, citing the need to be better. In game 3, they took a step back and got embarrassed. But today, they played their best game of the series, which now heads back to Philadelphia for what should be a great game 5. Who has tickets? This guy. 

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

BOX SCORE

For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench (see feature highlight).

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season, he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.”