PHILADELPHIA -- Thanks to a goaltender making his first career start in the playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers are one win away from becoming the first team in more than three decades to rally from a 3-0 series deficit.
Michael Leighton stopped 30 shots on Wednesday night to lead the Flyers to a 2-1 decision over the Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Wachovia Center.
Leighton, who stopped the last 14 shots in Monday's 4-0 win at Boston after relieving injured starter Brian Boucher, was 60 seconds minute away from posting a shutout of his own when Boston's Milan Lucic banged home a rebound with goalie Tuukka Rask pulled for an extra attacker. Rask stayed on the bench for the final minute, but the Bruins were unable to get a clean chance on goal.
The victory was the third straight for the Flyers, who have climbed back from an 0-3 deficit to force a seventh and deciding game at TD Garden on Friday. It will be the first Game 7 between the teams -- and it will be played one year to the day that the Bruins lost 3-2 in overtime to Carolina at home in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.
The last team to rally from a 3-0 series deficit was the 1975 New York Islanders, who beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the League quarterfinal round. The Isles would almost do the same thing against the Flyers in the following round, but dropped a 4-1 decision in Game 7 in Philadelphia. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only other team to win a series after losing the first three games.
Mike Richards and Danny Briere scored goals in the first and second periods, respectively. Leighton, who hadn't played in the postseason until Monday while recovering from a high ankle sprain, did the rest.
Leighton came up huge in the second period when he turned aside 12 shots before making nine more in the third as the Bruins began crashing the cage. He made big stops off Dennis Wideman and Miroslav Satan a little over three minutes into the third to keep his team ahead 2-0.
Rask was also exceptional for the visitors, coming up big to keep his team within striking distance. He stopped a penalty shot by Ville Leino with 7:21 remaining in the third, snaring a quick wrist shot with his glove. Leino was given his chance when he was hooked by Vladimir Sobotka on a breakaway.
The Wachovia Center was loud during the singing of "God Bless America" prior to the opening faceoff -- and got even louder when Richards gave the home team a 1-0 lead at 6:58. Richards controlled the puck during a scramble in front of Rask before snapping home a shot while linemate Daniel Carcillo jabbed away at the goalie's pads. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette put the Simon Gagne-Richards-Carcillo line back together following a one-game hiatus.
Rask kept the Bruins within one less than three minutes later when he used his left pad to deny pinching defenseman Matt Carle off a drive low in the left circle. The Bruins, outshot 7-3 over the initial 10 minutes of the first, did finish strong. They pestered Leighton with seven shots over the second half of the period to gain some momentum heading into the first intermission.
The Flyers made it 2-0 at 16:20 of the second when Danny Briere picked up his own deflected pass in the right circle and snapped a shot from the lower right circle that beat Rask high on the short side during a 4-on-3 power-play.
The Flyers have fallen behind 3-0 in a playoff series six times in their history. They were swept the first five times and took the Pittsburgh Penguins to a fifth game in the 2008 conference finals. Their series with the Bruins marked the first time Philadelphia forced a Game 6 after trailing 3-0.
The Flyers may have lost another key forward, though, as with less than two minutes remaining in the second period, penalty-killing specialist Blair Betts was hit hard into the boards at center ice before gingerly skating off the ice to the Flyers locker room favoring his right shoulder.
Shift of the game: Flyers goalie Michael Leighton, making his first career playoff start, passed his first big test with his team holding a 1-0 lead and on the power play 11:14 into the opening period. That's when Boston's Trent Whitfield took an outlet pass from Steve Begin in the neutral zone and broke in 1-on-1 with a chance to even the score and perhaps rattle the goalie. Whitfield's forehand snap shot hit a perfectly positioned Leighton right in the Flyers' crest and the hometown faithful roared their approval.
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