Flyers to the Finals!
Flyers 4, Canadiens 2
Flyers to the Finals!
Rich Hofmann, Daily News Sports Columnist
Sometimes, there is no need for either adjectives or embellishment. There are moments that speak for themselves, moments such as this one.
The Flyers are going to the Stanley Cup Finals.
For the first time since 1997, the Flyers will play for the big silver trophy that they have not won since 1975. The final score was Flyers 4, Montreal 2. The opponent will be the Chicago Blackhawks, who haven't won the Cup since 1961.
History will record that Jeff Carter scored the game-winner in the second period, and that captain Mike Richards had the first goal and the primary assist on Carter's decisive goal. Carter also scored into an emtpy net at the end after an outrageous effort by Richards to keep the puck alive.
The cliche-ridden, all-important first goal? Well, the Flyers didn't get it. The Wachovia Center opened with a roar but the Canadiens silenced it just 59 seconds into the game when Brian Gionta took advantage of a mixup on the Flyers' defensive coverage, taking a pass from Scott Gomez and scoring.
Mike Richards got the noise back in a big way, shorthanded. A loose puck was carreening into the Montreal end and it was very clear, for about a second, that there was going to be a four-way collision involving Richards, Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik, goaltender Jaroslav Halak and the puck. As it turned out, Hamrlik ended up taking Halak out of the play like a ten-pin and the puck and Richards both rebounded to freedom. When Richards got to his feet, he was able to backhand the puck into the empty net.
In the second period, the Flyers' opportunism continued. First it was Arron Asham, at 3:07 of the period, who sneaked behind the Montreal defense and was the recipient of a pass from Matt Carle, who had just saved the puck at the blue line. Then, at 4:31, it was Jeff Carter's turn. In his second game back from a broken foot, Carter was, appropriately enough, the "toe" on a beauty of a tic-tac-toe play that went from Kimmo Timonen, to Richards behind the net, and back to Carter in front.
That's how the second period ended, 3-1. But the Canadiens, to their everlasting credit, kept coming. A team that had come from behind against both Washington and Pittsburgh in the first two rounds of the playoffs, threw everything it had at the Flyers in the third period.
The breakthrough came at 6:53, when Gomez scored off of a pass from behind the net from PK Subban. That made it 3-2 and left the entire building pretty much roaring incoherently for a half-hour. Goaltender Michael Leighton was excellent down the stretch, and then Carter got the empty-netter to seal the trip to Chicago.