Reuters - Wed, 19 May 07:43:00 2010
The Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks moved a step closer to a Stanley Cup showdown after both teams took 2-0 leads in their respective best-of-seven conference finals series.
In Philadelphia, Michael Leighton continued his perfect run in the Eastern Conference finals by posting his second straight shutout of the Montreal Canadiens to lay the foundations for a 3-0 Flyers win.
Leighton took over as starting goaltender after Brian Boucher was injured in the fifth game of the team's second-round series, and he made 30 saves on Tuesday to match Chris Osgood's 2008 feat of back-to-back playoff shutouts for the Detroit Red Wings.
He is now 4-0 as a starter this post-season and has stopped all 58 shots he has faced in this series after Philadelphia blanked the Habs in a 6-0 rout Sunday.
"When we needed to get the big save, (Leighton) did, and when they pushed we pushed back," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "It was big for us."
Danny Briere put Philadelphia ahead after four minutes, Simon Gagne doubled the lead in the second and Ville Leino converted a snap-shot in the third to put the Flyers in a strong position before they head to Montreal for Game Three on Thursday.
Having pulled off shocking upset series wins against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two rounds, Montreal have looked overawed against the Flyers in their first appearance in the conference finals since 1993.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves after he allowed four goals and was pulled from the opener, but received little offensive support for the second straight game.
"We're not out of this series by any means," Habs forward Brian Gionta said. "We got some good chances tonight, which is encouraging."
In both contests the Canadiens have outshot the Flyers and opened Game Two in an aggressive mood with 16 attempts on goal in the first period.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, have been especially opportunistic and took advantage of Montreal's penalties to record power-play goals for their first two scores.
In San Jose, the Blackhawks stunned the top-seeded Sharks with a 4-2 win and head back home to Chicago for Game Three two games up.
The Blackhawks soared to a 3-0 advantage on goals from Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews, and were able to absorb two scores from San Jose's Patrick Marleau.
The Sharks edged Chicago for the top seed during the regular season but the Blackhawks have struck back in the playoffs to earn a clear advantage between the conference's most consistent teams.