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Flyers win Eastern Conference, advance to first Stanley Cup finals since 1997

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Jeff Carter notched a pair of goals and Mike Richards picked up a goal and two assists, as the Philadelphia Flyers dispatched the Montreal Canadiens by a 4-2 count in the deciding Game 5 of this Eastern Conference final.

Arron Asham also tallied for the Flyers, who head to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1997 and did it in a more impressive manner and in a tougher fashion than the last time.

Philadelphia reached the Cup Finals that season by rolling past Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Rangers in 15 total games only to be swept by Detroit — which ended a then NHL-longest 42-year title drought.

This time around, it was a five-game victory over New Jersey in the conference quarterfinals followed by an improbable seven-game semifinal win against Boston which saw Philly become the first team in 35 years to rally from an 0-3 series deficit.

A victory over Montreal was secured in large part by holding the Habs to a total of seven goals in five games, including three shutouts by Michael Leighton.

Leighton stopped 25-of-27 shots for the victory, running his record this postseason to 6-1.

Now, Chicago stands in the way. The Blackhawks, who eliminated the Sharks with a Game 4 victory on Sunday in the Western final, haven’t taken home the championship since 1961, the longest drought in the league. The Flyers have not won since the second of back-to-back triumphs in 1975.

Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez lit the lamp for the Canadiens, who managed to topple top-ranked Washington and defending Cup champion Pittsburgh in seven- game triumphs before bowing in their first conference finals since winning it all in 1993.

Jaroslav Halak allowed three goals on 25 shots for Montreal, which had won all five of its previous elimination games before Monday’s season-ending defeat.

With the setback, it marks the first time since the club joined the NHL that it failed to win a Stanley Cup at least once in a decade.