VOORHEES, N.J. — Goalie Michael Leighton presumed his Flyers teammates had one thought when he was pressed into emergency service for Game 5.
“Am I allowed to swear?” a laughing Leighton said.
His guess: Something like the phrase, Oh no!
By the end of Philadelphia’s 4-0 win, it was the Boston Bruins whose thoughts shifted more toward the profane. Once holding a dominating 3-0 series lead, the Bruins have lost two straight games and allowed the Flyers to seize momentum and send their confidence skyrocketing heading into today’s Game 6.
“Things can change in a hurry,” Flyers forward Danny Briere said Tuesday.
Briere meant in the win column, but he may as well have been talking about Philadelphia’s goalie carousel this season. Ray Emery, Brian Boucher, Johan Backlund, Jeremy Duchesne, Carter Hutton, Sebastien Caron and Leighton all were on Philadelphia’s roster at one point.
Boucher was riding a hot streak into the post-season and had played well until he was injured in Game 5.
The Flyers said Boucher has a sprained MCL in his left knee and could miss up to a month.
Boucher’s injury gave Leighton another shot at the No. 1 job.
Leighton, though, hadn’t played in two months because of a sprained ankle and was forced to watch games from the press box. He had not played since March 16 when he was put on the active roster before Game 5.
Leighton was needed in a pinch, but the lengthy layoff was exactly why he couldn’t blame his teammates if they quietly doubted his ability to hold the lead.
“My legs were shaking a little bit, I was nervous,” Leighton said. “Once I made a few saves, you kind of forget about that and just get focused. It kind of goes away.”
If the Flyers complete this improbable comeback, Leighton will have to play big. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders are the only NHL teams to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
“We could be in a better spot, but we’re playing hard right now,” Flyers captain Mike Richards said.
“We’re slowly pecking away.”
Briere, tied for the Flyers’ post-season lead with five goals, has a theory.
“Maybe they laid off a little bit after being up 3-0,” Briere said. “Last night, maybe we surprised them with our intensity. I don’t expect to surprise them again. Hopefully we can keep that roll going.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien has no desire to play Game 7 in Boston.
“We have a bad game in our system,” he said. “Now it’s up to us to show that bad game is out.”
Leighton proved already this season he could carry the Flyers. He was claimed off waivers in December after starting the season with Carolina and went unbeaten in regulation in his first 10 starts with the Flyers (8-0-1 Dec. 23-Jan. 12).
He won five straight games for the first time in his career and was cruising with a 16-5-2 record until he was injured mid-March in a 4-3 shootout loss at Nashville.
Leighton vowed he would return to the lineup somehow this season. When two players fell on Boucher during a scramble for a loose puck in the crease, Leighton had his second chance.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette pulled Leighton aside for a succinct pep talk. Laviolette told him: “You worked hard to get back to this. It’s your show now.”
Leighton stopped 14 shots and finished off the first combined shutout in the Flyers’ post-season history. It was just the second combined playoff shutout in NHL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Bruins forward Blake Wheeler said the team failed in testing Leighton when he entered the game.
“We were out of sync last night,” Wheeler said. “A little bit of frustration crept in and they took advantage.”
Laviolette was 2-for-2 on his Game 5 motivational speeches. His pregame address focused on the next 60 minutes, not chasing history.
“The better way to word it last night was, do you think we can beat the Boston Bruins tonight?” Laviolette said. “We kept it that simple. There was a belief that we could.”It’s belief shared all over Philadelphia.
“Even when we were down 3-0, we had the feeling we could win the series,” Flyers forward Simon Gagne said. “We could win some hockey games against that team.”
The Flyers trust they have two more left in them.