Flyers’ Leighton shuts out Habs for 3rd time

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MONTREAL (AP) — Michael Leighton shut down and shut out the Montreal Canadiens again, leading the Philadelphia Flyers within one win of the Stanley Cup finals.

Leighton stopped 17 shots for his third blanking of Montreal in four games, Claude Giroux scored twice — including an empty-netter — and Ville Leino added a breakaway goal in a 3-0 win over the Canadiens on Saturday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Philadelphia, which has won seven of eight since falling behind Boston 3-0 in the second round, leads the series 3-1 and can advance to the finals for the first time since 1997 with a win at home in Game 5 on Monday.

The Flyers bounced back from a 5-1 loss on Thursday with an efficient and opportunistic performance. They stifled the Canadiens, as they did at home in the first two games of the series. Montreal was held to only one shot in the second period, a frame in which Philadelphia scored twice.

“We were pretty tight defensively,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t allow a lot of opportunities. The neutral zone was really tight, which eliminates rush opportunities.

“We had some chances ourselves to score, so it was a good period.”

Leighton had a relatively easy day after allowing five goals on 38 shots on Thursday. He opened the series by stopping 58 shots in 6-0 and 3-0 wins at Philadelphia. He became the 13th NHL goalie to have three shutouts in one series, and the first since Toronto’s Ed Belfour and Tampa Bay’s Nikolai Khabibulin did it in the first round of the 2004 postseason.

Leighton’s best string of saves came during a scramble with 2:25 left. After stopping Marc-Andre Bergeron’s hard shot from the right circle, Leighton kicked out his left pad to foil Maxim Lapierre, who had two chances to stuff in the rebound. Travis Moen also got off a shot, but a sprawling Leighton somehow prevented the puck from crossing the line.

The Canadiens also squandered two power-play chances in the third period by registering just one shot. The Flyers had the best chance, but Philadelphia captain Mike Richards lost his footing trying to make a move on a partial breakaway.

The Canadiens’ one shot in the second period matched a playoff franchise low done twice before, most recently in a 5-2 win over Boston in April 1994. The Penguins were the last team to do it, during their Game 7 win over Detroit in last year’s Stanley Cup finals, according to STATS LLC.

The Flyers delivered on their vow to channel their frustrations after feeling embarrassed by their flat performance in Game 3. With a determined approach, Philadelphia won most of the battles for the puck and prevented the Canadiens from generating offensive pressure.

“For quite some time now this team has always answered a challenge, and they’ve always answered a bell,” Laviolette said. “But, again, before we leave this rink we need to dismiss it, get rid of it, and start focusing and getting ready because there’s just too much at stake.”

Giroux opened the scoring 5:41 into the second period by streaking past defender Josh Gorges at the left circle, driving to the net, and lifting a shot to beat goalie Jaroslav Halak on the short side. Gorges was caught flat-footed and slowed because he was having trouble with his skate. A piece of equipment hung off it.

Leino made it 2-0 by sneaking in behind the Canadiens’ defense on the transition. Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger broke up a play at his blue line and hit Leino on the fly up the left wing, while Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban was caught up ice. Leino cruised in, faked going wide, and then slipped the puck just inside the near post.

Eighth-seeded Montreal will need to engineer another comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to get to the finals for the first time since 1993. The Canadiens dug out of such a hole in the first round and knocked out Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington.

Montreal also shook off deficits of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 to eliminate Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Flyers welcomed back injured forwards Jeff Carter, who missed 11 games because of a broken foot, and Ian Laperriere, who sat out 10 games due to a concussion and brain injury.

Carter showed no sign of the injury in getting the Flyers’ first scoring chance 13 minutes in, when he split the Canadiens defense and drove in on net before being stopped by Halak. The near miss gave life to the Flyers, who began to take control of the game.

The Canadiens started strong and outshot the Flyers 5-1 through the first seven minutes. But Montreal managed only two shots the rest of the period.

NOTES: Daniel Carcillo and Andreas Nodl sat out to make room for Carter and Laperriere. Carcillo was scratched for the first time this postseason. Nodl entered the lineup after Laperriere was injured during the first round against New Jersey. … The Canadiens played their 100th game of the season for the fourth time in team history. The franchise record is 104 set in 1992-93. … Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec has no goals and four assists in 12 games after leading the team with 70 points in the regular season. … After the Flyers were outshot by a combined 46-21 in the first period of each of the first three games, they were outshot only 7-5 on Saturday.