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Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens gives up a goal to Simon Gagne #12 (not pictured) of the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period as Ville Leino #22 celebrates in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens gives up a goal to Simon Gagne #12 (not pictured) of the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period as Ville Leino #22 celebrates in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Leighton shuts out Habs again Add to ...

All journeys, no matter how fabulous, enthralling or unexpected, must eventually end, and it appears the Montreal Canadiens may be nearing their ultimate destination.

The Philadelphia Flyers have never lost a postseason series in which they led two games to none (they're 16-0). And there's little in Tuesday night's 3-0 Game 2 triumph - sparked by Philly's Quebec contingent, Daniel Briere and Simon Gagne, who each scored - to suggest that string won't continue.

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At times like these, the feeling takes hold that perhaps it isn't meant to be for the Habs - although recent precedent means counting them out is a foolhardy enterprise.

"The word after [the game]was 'Hey, we did a lot of good things and that's just sports'," said winger Michael Cammalleri. "Let's go home and play some hockey."

Still, it must have made for difficult watching from the Montreal bench: a B-grade, shot-by-shot remake of the first period of Game 1.

As in Game 1, the Habs carried the play in the early going, building up an advantage in shots and winning the first power play.

As in the first meeting, centre Scott Gomez immediately took a needless penalty to negate the man-advantage, and Philly subsequently scored (in Game 1 the goal came at 3:55, Tuesday night at 4:16 - uncanny symmetry).

Perhaps most distressing for the Canadiens is that they largely fixed everything that went wrong in the first game, tightening up their breakouts, fore-checking with zeal, and keeping the front of the net clean, and still managed to lose, beaten at their own game by a patient opponent.

If the Canadiens have won throughout the playoffs by playing canny defence and absorbing the other team's push - they are now 0-5 this postseason when they outshoot their opponent - Philly has taken the rope-a-dope to new heights.

Journeyman goaltender Michael Leighton, he of the four career playoff starts, did more than his part, extending his shutout streak to 165:50, or just over eight periods.

It was the first time since 1983, against Buffalo, that the Canadiens have been shut out in back-to-back playoff games.

"If it's got to be an ugly one off someone's ass, oh well . . . we've just got to get that first one and the rest will come," Gomez said.

The Habs had said they would make the necessary adjustments and come out with vigour, and take a page out of their opponents' book by crowding the net.

That they did, using their speed to maximum effect from the opening shift, with Czech centre Tomas Plekanec, not known for his brawn, doing the dirty work.

Despite the Canadiens' early commitment and verve, it was the Flyers who emerged with the opening goal.

First, Gomez cancelled out a Montreal power play by hooking Claude Giroux in the defensive zone - Giroux was only too happy to trap the blade of Gomez's stick under his arm when the Alaskan reached in.

Moments later Gomez's folly was plainly exposed as Giroux collected an astute pass from defenceman Kimmo Timonen and then sliced the Montreal defence open with a dish of his own to Briere, who fired a wrist shot up and over Halak's glove.

It's not much of a surprise, then, that Gomez watched the first wave of the Habs' next power play from the bench.

If the Flyers only had three stretches of sustained pressure in the first frame, Gomez was responsible for two of them - the penalty, and a giveaway behind the net midway through the period which created havoc in the Montreal end, though it would escape.

And at the other end, the Habs continued to be frustrated on the power play, with Philadelphia goaltender Michael Leighton repelling seven shots and confounding Cammalleri on back-to-back chances.

When Gagne scored Philly's second on a power-play scramble, his sixth goal in as many games since returning from injury, there was a sense the outcome was assured. Ville Leino's weak shot past Jaroslav Halak's glove in the third merely confirmed the fact.

It also meant Halak, so magnificent throughout the playoffs, had yielded seven times on 32 shots.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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