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 NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”