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Leighton Inspires Confidence in Finishing Off Shutout

Tuesday, 05.11.2010 / 9:23 AM ET / News
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com
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Leighton Inspires Confidence in Finishing Off Shutout
(Boston, MA) - Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton had one thing in mind as he was about to step in for an injured Brian Boucher and make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut with the entire season on the line.

It was pretty simple, really. All Leighton needed to do was make sure the team maintained the same level of confidence in him as they had in Boucher. In order to do that, he'd have to come up with timely stops -- something he hadn't done in an actual game setting in almost two months. It was March 16, actually, when Leighton last played in a game.

"Those first few minutes, I was pretty nervous knowing the situation, knowing that you're one mistake away from them tying it up and then it's a different ball game," Leighton said.
Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton, right, is congratulated by teammate Chris Pronger, left, after the Flyers beat the Boston Bruins4-0 in Game 5 of a second-round NHL playoff hockey series in Boston, Monday, May 10, 2010. Leighton replaced goalie Brian Boucher after an injury in the second period. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

But there he was. The Flyers picked Leighton up on re-entry waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes in December for this exact purpose. He'd step in and do the job after Ray Emery was sidelined for good with a serious is left hip inury in February, and now he was asked to do it again. But this time he was doing it for the first time in 22 games.

"I didn't want to allow a goal early in the game," Leighton said. "We're up, 1-0. If they score when I go in, just when I'm starting to get comfortable, it's a 1-1 game. I didn't want to lose confidence in the team. I was able to make one or two routine stops early when I went in and team played well after that."

It was quite the scene at the 4:35 mark of the second when Boucher was lying on his back after making his ninth save, suddenly in agony after having his left leg bent beneath his body while two players toppled over him. According to CSNPhilly.com, Boucher sprained the MCL in both knees. It certainly wasn't the way Leighton would have scripted his first appearance in a playoff game, but he had no choice.

Neither did his teammates, who played flawless in front of Leighton. The sixth-year goalie would finish with 14 saves to help the Flyers notch their second shutout this postseason and the 27th in their storied playoff history.

The combined shutout by Leighton and Boucher was only the second in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- on March 22, 1955, Montreal's Jacques Plante and Charlie Hodge blanked Boston, 2-0.

"Guys are just doing anything they can; we played great tonight," Leighton said. "As soon as I went in, we played great defensively. We definitely held back their shots and their goal scoring, we stayed out the box, and it gave me the opportunity to get comfortable. If they came in and peppered me right away, it may have been a different outcome. So hats off to the team around me."

Leighton was actually stunned when he saw Boucher on the ice in obvious pain. He, like everyone else on the team, was thinking, "Not again."

"I actually couldn't even believe it happened," he said. "With Ray (Emery) going down earlier, and then Boosh going down earlier this season and then Ray coming back and then I get hurt and then Boosh again (on Monday)," Leighton said. "So it's definitely been a roller coaster for the goalies this year. But the team has done great job playing in front of all of us."

Leighton actually had a moment with Boucher in the locker room while he was getting treated.

"I just asked how he was doing and he said great job to me and I said great job to him," Leighton said. "It was a shared shutout. He was playing great in the first period and early in the second.

Now, the question is can Leighton take over where Boucher left off in the playoffs? Certainly no easy feat considering "Boosh" has a 6-4 mark (he was credited with the win Monday since the Flyers scored the game-winning goal while he was in net) with a 2.33 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 10 appearances this postseason.

The way Leighton sees it, however, this team has been playing solid hockey and he expects it to continue in Game 6 at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday (8:00 p.m., CSN).

"We know we can (win four straight)," Leighton said. "In my eyes, we've outplayed (Boston) most of the games. The first game we came out slow because we had a long break but we've been there every game -- it's not like they're blowing us out. We're confident as long as we come out and we're ready to play every game that we can win each game. We just have to brush (Game 5) under the rug now and head back home and focus on that game."

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 51 16 28 -6 44
J. Voracek 51 8 34 -1 42
W. Simmonds 51 18 16 -6 34
B. Schenn 49 14 15 -1 29
S. Gostisbehere 33 9 18 4 27
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
M. Read 50 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 51 4 10 -6 14
M. Del Zotto 49 4 9 -9 13
M. Raffl 51 6 6 2 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 12 13 7 .916 2.69
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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