Habs ground Flyers to open East finals account

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The Montreal Canadiens finally solved Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton on Thursday for a crucial win that kept them from being pushed to the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference final.

After being held scoreless in a pair of losses to start the series, Montreal's offense came alive in a comfortable 5-1 win that leaves them trailing the best-of-seven series 2-1.

Michael Cammalleri scored his playoff-leading 13th playoff goal to give the Canadiens their first lead in the series.

The resilient Habs built a 4-0 cushion in front of a boisterous home crowd that finally saw the team display the fight it did during upset wins in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

After Cammalleri's score, Tom Pyatt added a tip-in late in the first, Dominic Moore netted a wrister in the second and Brian Gionta had a goal in the third to put Montreal firmly in command.

"We're a much better team with our backs against the wall," Gionta told reporters of the Habs, who overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the opening round against Washington and won the last two games in the second round to eliminate Pittsburgh in seven.

"We've dealt with it all year with some key injuries. It's no different in the playoffs."

Young Slovakian goalie Jaroslav Halak rebounded from two uncharacteristic performances but had his shutout bid broken when Philadelphia's Simon Gagne scored with around 12 minutes left.

Marc-Andre Bergeron added the final score for the Canadiens with 31 seconds to go.

Leighton finished with 33 saves but suffered his first loss of the post-season after going 4-0 since filling in for the injured Brian Boucher, who went down with a knee injury in the second round.

Game Four is in Montreal on Saturday where Philadelphia will try to respond from Thursday's disappointing effort.

"They handed it to us right from the get-go," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "This is a team that plays a lot different at home. They play with a lot of energy and a lot of fire.

"We have to understand that and play to a higher level."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)