Jeff Carter's second goal on the night was an empty-netter to cinch the Philadelphia Flyers' first trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 13 years via a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals at Wachovia Center Monday.
The Flyers move on to face the Chicago Blackhawks, who swept San Jose Sharks and will host Game 1 of the Finals on Saturday. The series pits the No. 2 seed in the West versus the No. 7 seed in the East.
Either team to advance out of the East would have been a surprise finalist. The Flyers upset the New Jersey Devils, then became the third team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in a second-round tilt against the Boston Bruins.
"We have a group of guys in that room that no matter what happens, they never give up," Carter said. "I think we've seen that come to the forefront in these playoffs here. It's a pretty amazing thing to be a part of."
Montreal, which entered as the lowest seed in the playoffs, didn't go quietly. Scott Gomez scored seven minutes into the third period to cut the Flyers' lead to 3-2. A couple minutes later, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was called for high-sticking Habs defenseman P.K. Subban, a double-minor at that since it drew blood.
"Trust me, we were going into the third thinking we were going to come out of here and go back to Montreal," said Gomez, whose Habs team overcame 3-1 (Washington) and 3-2 (Pittsburgh) series deficits through the first two rounds. "It's been the makeup of our team. We thought we were going to do it again, but we ran out of time."
Much of that time was wasted on six power-play chances which produced five shots and a shorthanded goal for Philly. The four minutes with the extra man granted on Pronger's penalty were cut short by about a minute when Glen Metropolit was called for tripping.
"Give the Flyers credit," Gomez said. "They adjusted their special teams."
The Flyers' first goal of the night typified the club's strange run through the playoffs. On the penalty kill four minutes into regulation, Flyers forward Claude Giroux freed the puck long enough to flip it past center ice where a three-way foot race ensued.
Philly's Mike Richards got a piece of the puck as Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak and defensemen Roman Hamrlik collided. The puck continued toward the net where Richards recovered to tip it in to tie the game, 1-1.
"What do you want me to say," Halak said. "I tried to pokecheck the guy and the puck ended up where it ended up."
There was a bit more art to the Flyers' next two goals, which came 1:24 apart early in the second period.
Aaron Asham, who managed to get a few breaks on Montreal's net throughout Game 5, used a juke to his backhand and then a wrist shot to score his third goal of the playoff. Carter followed with his first goal since he broke a bone in his foot on April 22 on a tic-tac-toe goal set up by Richards and Kimmo Timonen.
Leighton finished with 25 saves.