Thursday, May 13, 2010

Leighton guides Flyers into Game 7

Michael Leighton is shining in his first opportunity in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And the former Albany River Rats goalie has seized the moment for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Stepping in for the injured Brian Boucher after not having played for two months because of injury, Leighton has helped energize the Flyers’ comeback bid in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told Leighton: “You worked hard to get back to this. It’s your show now,” according to the Associated Press.
With Philadelphia trailing 3-1 in the series, Leighton got the call when Boucher left with a knee injury 4:31 into the second period of Game 5. A nine-year pro, Leighton stopped all 14 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory on Monday in his first Stanley Cup playoff appearance to preserve Boucher’s win.
Leighton started in Game 6 on Wednesday, making 30 saves in the Flyers’ 2-1 victory to force Game 7, which will be played tonight in Boston.
“When I had to go in the last game I didn’t have time to think about it,” Leighton told the Boston Globe. “Actually, I was more nervous (Wednesday night). It took me a few minutes to get rid of the butterflies and get my feet wet.”
Leighton was at the center of the classic, five overtime playoff game for the Albany River Rats against the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2008 — the longest in AHL history at 142 minutes, 58 seconds.
He made a stunning and team-record 98 saves, but was out dueled by Scott Munroe’s 65-save effort as the Phantoms won 3-2 in Game 5 of the East Division semifinal series in Albany.
Leighton, an AHL All-Star that season, went onto spend the 2000-09 campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes, faring 6-7-2 in 19 appearances, then only won one of seven appearances (1-4-0, 4.29 goals against average) to open this season.
This season after Leighton was sent down to Albany on loan; he was placed on re-entry waivers the next day on Dec. 12 by the Carolina Hurricanes and was claimed by Philadelphia.
The Flyers are sure glad they did.
He went on to post a 16-5-2 mark in 27 games with a 2.48 GAA, including a five-game winning streak, before he was sidelined in mid-March with a sprained ankle.
“This team’s been through a lot, and every time we get thrown something, we just take it in stride and continue to push,” Laviolette told “You know, they just seem to respond to any type of adverse circumstance, whether it's the season or schedule or injury or a goaltender (or a) circumstance like (being down) 0-3. Our guys continue to push back. They won’t go away.”
The Flyers, just the sixth team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after being down, 0-3, is looking to become just the third team to win a series after facing that deficit along with the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Down 3-0 is certainly not a great situation,” said Leighton, who will turn 29 on Wednesday. “But Lavy (Laviolette) said ‘Either you can give up or you can get back.’ We knew we had to take it one game at a time, but we wanted it.
“We knew we were a better team than losing four straight.”
Perhaps Philadelphia should have given Leighton a chance earlier in the postseason.


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