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NHL Playoffs: Leino, Byfuglien put Habs and Sharks on brink

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Detroit fans must be wondering where the performance Ville Leino is putting up in these playoffs was when he was wearing a Winged Wheel.

Leino scored again on Saturday, leading the Philadelphia Flyers to their third victory in four games over the Montreal Canadiens, putting the Cinderella Habs one loss from elimination.  Claude Giroux scored twice for Philadelphia, who shutout Montreal for the third time in the series.

Leino took a blue line-to blue line-pass from Chris Pronger and threaded a shot past Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak for his fourth goal of the post season with just over five minutes left in the second period to give Philly a 2-0 lead.  That equaled the goal total Leino produced in Motown before he was traded to the Flyers---a 42 game stretch.

Giroux gave the Flyers the lead 5:41 into the second, taking advantage of a broken skate strap by Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges.  Gorges was unable to leave the ice and couldn't catch up to the play, allowing Giroux to skate by the immoblized Canadien and score on a backhander past Halak.  Giroux added an empty netter with 1:13 to play to seal the deal.

The real story of the series however has been Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton.  A backup to starter Brian Boucher to start the playoffs, Leighton took over when Boucher went down with an injury and lead the historic 0-3 comeback against the Boston Bruins.  Besides the 5-1 loss in Game 3, Leighton has turned away 75 shots in earning three shutouts against Montreal

The West after the jump

In the other conference final, Chicago has just downright schooled the San Jose Sharks in the first three games of the Western Conference Finals.  Dustin Byfuglien scored 12:24 into overtime to give the Blackhawks a 3-0 series lead over the top ranked Sharks on Friday night.

The Sharks, helped by a large penalty advantage against the Red Wings in the conference semifinals, have been unable to take advantage of a similar advantage against the Hawks.  San Jose is 3 for 12 on the power play in the series, which included a 5-0 penalty advantage in Game 1.  Chicago has been opportunistic on the power play, scoring on two of their six chances.

The biggest reason, much like in the East, for the Hawks has been the play between the pipes.  Antti Niemi has been nothing short of spectacular, holding Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley goal-less in the series.  The lone Shark that has shown up to play has been Patrick Marleau, who has three of Sharks' five goals.

Chicago will go for the sweep tomorrow in Game 4 at 3 pm on NBC, trying to clinch their first Stanley Cup Finals berth since 1992.  The Flyers will try to close out Montreal on Monday at 7 pm on Versus, attempting their first Finals appearance since being swept in the 1997 Cup Finals by the Detroit Red Wings.