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Under-the-Radar Leighton and Leino Carry Flyers to Game 2 Win

May 18, 2010 – 8:46 PM
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Christopher Botta

Christopher Botta %BloggerTitle%

In the Stanley Cup playoffs, unheralded players giving star performances is a rite of spring. For the Philadelphia Flyers, now up two games to none in the Eastern Conference Final after a 3-0 victory over Montreal on Tuesday, those players are Michael Leighton and Ville Leino.

When a team gets a shutout from a one-time No. 3 goalie and a goal and an assist from a depth forward, as the Flyers did in Game 2, it has reason to throw around the word "destiny."

The low-cost, in-season acquisitions have been among the Flyers' most valuable players of the playoffs. On Tuesday, Leighton posted his second consecutive shutout and his best game of the postseason. The goalie, picked up on waivers from Carolina on Dec. 15, made 30 saves -- including 26 in the first two periods when the Flyers were out-played by Montreal but still led the game, 2-0.

"When we needed Leights to make the big save he did," said Flyers captain Mike Richards.

Flyers lead series, 2-0
Flyers 3, Canadiens 0: Recap | Box Score | Series Page

"He's been good," said Montreal wing Brian Gionta, who led his team with eight shots. "But we have to make it more difficult for him. He's making all the big first saves. We have to get second and third shots on him."

Since taking over the net after Brian Boucher suffered an injury in the second round, Leighton has stopped 120 of 124 shots. The goalie is on a shutout streak of 165 minutes.

"We have had so many changes in goal, sometimes it's easy to forget," Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said in reference to the injury-motivated rotation of Ray Emery, Boucher and Leighton. "But before he was sidelined, Michael Leighton played great in goal for us. When Bouche went down, Michael stepped right in and hasn't missed a beat. His play is not a surprise to us because he won several big games for us in the second half."

A bit more quietly, Leino is becoming a vital contributor for the Flyers. His goal and assist in Game 2 give him 11 points in 10 games during the 2010 playoffs. For perspective, Leino had 11 points in 55 regular season games this season. The 26-year-old left wing from Finland was acquired by the Flyers from Detroit before the deadline for a spare defenseman and a fifth round pick.

On Monday, Leino had the first assist on Simon Gagne's second period power play goal and scored a pretty one of his own. Taking a pass at the red line from Lukas Krajicek, Leino skated down the left boards and around Josh Gorges before surprising Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak with a wrist shot high. Not bad for a player who missed the opening round series first with a virus, then as a healthy scratch before the injuries piled up for the Flyers.

"Ville has been outstanding for us," said Peter Laviolette, who will be faced with enviably tough decisions if forwards Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere return from injuries. "He had the illness and then couldn't crack the lineup, but it was never for a lack of ability or effort on his part. We told him to be ready and he was. He gives a real lift to our team."

The big story of the East Final, of course, is Montreal's failure to score in the first two games. Most distressing to the Canadiens should be their effort in the third period in Game 2, when they managed just four shots on goal.

"We have to find a way to score goals," said Gionta. "This time of year, they don't have to be pretty. It doesn't always have to be Mike Cammalleri. Everyone has to do their part to contribute."

Leighton and Leino are the proof.
Filed under: Sports