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.
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)