Laperriere returns to lineup with typical tenacity

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PHILADELPHIA -- Ian Laperriere broke into the NHL during the 1993-94 season.

Laperriere has seen a lot during that tenure, but never has played in the Stanley Cup Final. Well, after Monday night’s 4-2 win by his Flyers against Montreal in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the wait is over for the gritty veteran.

Laperriere has certainly paid the price to advance.

He blocked a Paul Martin shot with his face in the clinching game of the first-round series against the Devils and suffered a brain contusion and cuts that required almost 70 stitches. There were serious concerns that he might not play again this postseason and even some whispers that his career could be in jeopardy.

But after missing all of Philadelphia’s historic comeback against Boston in the second round and the first three games of the Montreal series, Laperriere returned for Saturday’s Game 4.

He was a huge part of the Game 5 win too. Early in the second period, he went down and blocked a slap shot from P.K. Subban -- a sequence eerily similar to the Martin play -- that gave his team some jump. Less than a minute later, Arron Asham scored to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead.

It was not a coincidence.

Laperriere also was part of a Flyer penalty kill that held Montreal without a power-play goal in five attempts Monday night. Montreal had just one man-advantage goal in the series. In all, Laperriere played a little more than eight minutes, including almost two minutes of penalty-killing duty, and blocked two shots, while finishing minus-1.

Q: You come here this summer and now you are going to the Stanley Cup Final. How does it feel?

Laperriere:  It feels great. I told a couple of the young guys before the game that it took me 15 years to get where we are going. It’s a great feeling. I’m feeling great. I can’t imagine winning the big one and how great it will feel.

Q: How special is it that you barely got into the playoffs and now you are here?

Laperriere:  It is special. Especially the way we came in. We believe in our team. We know we touched rock bottom and it wasn’t fun around here. Sometimes, though, when you do that, it makes your team stronger and obviously it did.

Q: Have you ever been around a team that showed so much character and heart?

Laperriere:  Never. What this team did, it happened three times. The Boston series was unbelievable and it takes a lot of character and caring about each other pull together and win four and a row against Boston and to win against Montreal. You have to give Montreal credit, they had a hell of a run in the playoffs and they played unbelievable. I’d like to say it hurts me because I am from there, but, no, I won’t lie. It doesn’t hurt me.

Q: How special that you were able to come back in this series and be a part of it on-ice?

Laperriere:  That's special. It took me 15 years and two weeks ago I’m like, “I am missing that.” I was glad the team, was winning, but you play hockey for this -- to win. To play 82 games and to get injured like that -- a freaky one -- it killed me inside. But when they told me I had an outside chance and the MRI came back clean, it put more life into me and I am just glad I could share that with my teammates.

Q: Talk is you are going to be the underdogs going into the Chicago series -- does that bother you?

Laperriere: We’ve been underdogs the whole playoffs. Even a bunch of people picked Montreal to beat us. It’s all good.

Q: You’re four wins away from winning it all. Can you taste how close you are?

Laperriere: I don’t know. We’ll taste this tonight, we’ll enjoy it tonight and tomorrow we will go back to work. The next step is going to be the hardest, for sure. Chicago is an unbelievable team and they play with confidence. They have a lot of good young players and we are going to have to bring our “A” game every night and go game by game like we did in this series and the whole playoffs. We have to go game by game and shift by shift and see where it takes us.

Q: What did you think of your captain tonight?

Laperriere: (Mike Richards) was unbelievable. Richie was unbelievable all year to carry this team through the ups and downs. The way our team went, it takes a great leader to do that. He’s not Mr. Talkative like I am, but he leads by example. Tonight was another example, he went through everybody. I’ve played with great players and he’s got that in him -- greatness. He’s still young and it’s just the beginning.

Q: What about the reaction when you blocked the shot from P.K. Subban?

Mike Richards

Center - PHI

GOALS: 6 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 21

SOG: 39 | +/-: 6

Q: Did Chris Pronger say anything to you after you blocked that first shot?

Laperriere: That’s part of my game and I got hurt twice with that and you always have not doubts but you can’t wait to block that first one to throw yourself into it -- like when you fall of the bike when you are a little boy. You get back on the bike and I did that tonight.

Q: You did that last game, but not like tonight. They made sounds when you blocked them.

Laperriere: These are the ones where I got hurt; when I go down like that. But, like I said before, it took 15 years before I took two in the face and hopefully, it will take another 15 and maybe I’ll retire before that.