It's a Flyers-Blackhawks final

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Philadelphia books ticket to the big series by finishing off Montreal in five games

Asham and Jeff Carter scored in the second period as the Philadelphia Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup final with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

The Flyers, who squeaked into the playoffs by winning their final regular season game in a shootout, took the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 4-1 and will face the Chicago Blackhawks for the Cup.

The Philadelphia Flyers' Arron Asham (right) scores on Montreal Canadiens' goalie Jaroslav Halak in the second period of Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference final Monday night in Philadelphia. The Flyers won the game 4-2 and took the best-of-seven series

Philadelphia books ticket to the big series by finishing off Montreal in five games

Asham and Jeff Carter scored in the second period as the Philadelphia Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup final with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

The Flyers, who squeaked into the playoffs by winning their final regular season game in a shootout, took the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 4-1 and will face the Chicago Blackhawks for the Cup.

Game 1 of the final goes Saturday, with Chicago hosting Philadelphia at 9:30 p.m. NT.

It will be Philadelphia's eighth trip to the final and their first since 1997. They have not won since they took back-to-back Cups in 1974 and 1975.

Flyers captain Mike Richards scored his first of the series while killing a penalty in the first period after Brian Gionta got one for Montreal, which looked to have run out of steam after seven-game upset victories over Washington and Pittsburgh.

Scott Gomez added a goal in the third as the Canadiens mounted a desperate charge but were unable to get the equalizer. Carter scored his second of the game into an empty net with 23 seconds left.

The Flyers were outshot by Montreal 27-26.

Chicago hasn't claimed the silver chalice since 1961, when the league had only six teams, and Philadelphia wasn't one of them. The Flyers are seeking their first title since hoisting the Cup in 1974 and 1975 when the franchise was less than 10 years old.

Philadelphia rose from the No. 7 seed and earned its title shot Monday night with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final - a far cry from its second-round win in Game 7 against Boston that completed a 3-0 series comeback and a 3-0 rally in the decisive contest.

Chicago punched its ticket on Sunday, also at home, when the Blackhawks completed a four-game sweep of San Jose.

When the season started back in October, the Blackhawks were a popular choice to represent the Western Conference and make their first finals appearance since 1992. The Flyers also were considered a favourite in the East.

That title talk ended quickly as Philadelphia dropped to the bottom of the standings and replaced coach John Stevens with Peter Laviolette in December. The Flyers ran the gamut of peaks and valleys on either side of the holiday and Olympic breaks before making a final playoff surge in the dwindling days of the regular season.

It wasn't until Brian Boucher stopped New York Rangers forward Olli Jokinen in the final round of the shootout on the final day of the regular season that the Flyers secured a place in the post-season.

Then they made the most of it.

After getting close a few times in recent years, Philadelphia is playing for the Cup for the first time since being swept by Detroit in 1997.

The Blackhawks took a different path. After reaching the conference final last year, this young, dynamic group from Chicago gained the requisite experience to learn how to win.

With maturity exceeding their years, the Blackhawks challenged for the top seed in the West, but settled for No. 2 along with their Central Division title over defending West champion Detroit. Despite being an Original Six franchise, Chicago had become a bit of a forgotten hockey city. The Blackhawks hadn't finished first in their division since 1993.

That has all changed since the arrival of Toews, Patrick Kane, and first-year starting goalie Antti Niemi, and the emergence of power forward Dustin Byfuglien as a post-season force.

SHARKS WRAPUP

Stanley Cup goal still eludes San Jose

San Jose, Calif. (AP) - Shortly after his San Jose Sharks were swept out of the Western Conference final by Chicago, coach Todd McLellan tried to draw inspiration from the Blackhawks.

Just one year after losing in five games to Detroit in the conference final, the Blackhawks are headed to the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1992 after outskating and outplaying the Sharks in the four-game sweep.

"I think we can look at what the Blackhawks did last year and how they grew through losing," McLellan said. "Sometimes it's part of the process. . . . Their team has been there and done it. They've learned through it. I'd like to think we could be that team."

Unfortunately for the Sharks, there are plenty of differences between the Chicago team that fell to Detroit and this year's San Jose team. The Blackhawks were a young team with plenty of emerging stars in their 20s, while most of the Sharks' top players will be in their 30s next season.

With key players like leading goal-scorer Patrick Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabokov set to become unrestricted free agents, captain Rob Blake contemplating retirement at age 40, and the need to stay within the salary cap, there are questions about whether this team can - or should - be kept together for another run.

The Sharks accomplished plenty this season, from posting the top record in the Western Conference for the second straight year to making it to the conference final for the first time in six years.

After being labelled playoff underachievers following last year's first-round loss as the top seed to Anaheim, the Sharks overcame a few bad breaks to beat Colorado in six games in the first round before ousting longtime nemesis Detroit in five games in the second round. But The Sharks struggled against the younger and quicker Blackhawks.

Marleau has shouldered the bulk of the criticism for San Jose's past playoff failures but was at his best when it mattered this post-season. He scored two game-winning goals against Detroit before breaking through with five against the Blackhawks.

"It comes down to winning," he said. "You could take those away if we were still playing. I'm disappointed with getting this far and coming up short, so it's not fun by any means."

Marleau did not want to talk about his impending free agency after the loss, saying he loves San Jose and will wait to see how everything plays out.

The only forward to score a goal other than Marleau in the series was rookie Logan Couture, who got the first goal in Game 4. The second line of Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi that carried the Sharks for much of the first two rounds with 16 goals, managed no goals on 37 shots in the series.

Joe Thornton was held in check by Dave Bolland for much of the series, managing only one assist in four games. He was on the ice for seven of Chicago's 10 even-strength goals for the series and had a minus-5 rating for the four games.

Dany Heatley, the major off-season acquisition, never fully recovered from a groin injury that forced him to miss Game 3 in the first round against Colorado. He managed just two goals in 14 post-season games.

Without the production from those core players, no one else stepped into the void.

Organizations: Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens New York Rangers San Jose Sharks

Geographic location: Philadelphia, Chicago, Montreal San Jose Detroit Washington Pittsburgh Boston Colorado San Jose, Calif. Anaheim

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Mr. Soundoff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I like this matchup but - 'okkey in June is not on folks. Get this wrapped up by mid May but I guess Bettman loves the $$$$'s

  • Killer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Game is gonna be good. Shame on you HABS supporters. How could you support ANYTHING that comes out of those NL hates, Quebec!

  • yis
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    This is going to be a good final - i'm excited!

    Two good hockey towns going at it

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Oleeee, ole ole ole!!! Oleeee, oleeee.

  • Mr. Soundoff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    I like this matchup but - 'okkey in June is not on folks. Get this wrapped up by mid May but I guess Bettman loves the $$$$'s

  • Killer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    Game is gonna be good. Shame on you HABS supporters. How could you support ANYTHING that comes out of those NL hates, Quebec!

  • yis
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    This is going to be a good final - i'm excited!

    Two good hockey towns going at it

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Oleeee, ole ole ole!!! Oleeee, oleeee.