The Philadelphia Flyers have been in this exact position in the Eastern Conference finals three times in the past 10 seasons.
The 2003-04 squad forced a seventh and deciding game before bowing out against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The 1999-00 team lost the final two games of the series, including Game 7 at home, to the New Jersey Devils.
One win away from the Stanley Cup Finals in both situations and each time and they've fallen short. Now, with another opportunity to claim the franchise's eighth Prince of Wales Trophy, Philadelphia will return home for Monday's Game 5 looking to make their first appearance in the Cup Finals in 13 years.
The man whose put them in this position is Michael Leighton(notes) and his 3-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens this afternoon to put the Flyers up 3-1 in the series was his third of the series, a remarkable feat considering his journey to this point and the fact that Ray Emery(notes) was supposed to be the guy doing all of this for the Flyers.
While Leighton's shutouts in the first two games of the series required a little more work (28 and 30 shots faced) compared to today's 17 shots against, it was his teammates in front of him who kept the Canadiens offense hindered all game. Holding Montreal to just one shot in the second period while getting goals from Claude Giroux(notes) and Ville Leino(notes), the Flyers' commitment to defense was what buoyed the team to victory.
The effort of the Flyers blue line in their three wins has frustrated Montreal's snipers, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta(notes) (three shots combined today), who were running roughshod over opponents in the first two rounds. Philadelphia sticks clogged up every lane and Matt Carle(notes) (six), Kimmo Timonen(notes) (four) and Chris Pronger(notes) (three) each contributed to Philadelphia's 27 blocked shots.
Philadelphia took advantage of its well-played defense and while their first goal may have been the result of a Josh Gorges skate malfunction, the backbreaking second tally by Ville Leino came during a sleepy Montreal line change:
Having witnessed the Philadelphia comeback against the Boston Bruins in the second round and accomplished the feat already against the Washington Capitals in the opening round, the Canadiens know that this series isn't over until a handshake line starts forming.
On the other side of the ice, however, the Flyers know all too well about comebacks and head coach Peter Laviolette will be instilling into the minds of his players that the series ends on Monday night and that giving Montreal a hint of momentum in the series could be extremely dangerous in the long run.