MONTREAL - After letting a two-game series lead slip away in the first round of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers did their utmost to avoid the same fate and close out their second-round series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Scottie Upshall scored with 3:04 remaining in the third period and Philadelphia advanced to the Eastern Conference final with a 6-4 win over Montreal last night.
Upshall deflected Jeff Carter's shot past Carey Price to give the Flyers the lead for good as Philadelphia won the series in five games.
"It was a great feeling," Upshall said. "A tie game with three minutes left, it's anybody's game, it's one shot, it's one bounce. [Carter] made a great shot on net. I was in the lane to see the puck and I thought I could get a stick on it and redirect it, and to get a big goal like that is pretty uplifting for your spirits."
The Flyers are the second team to reach the conference finals after the Presidents' Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings got there in the West by sweeping the Colorado Avalanche.
Philadelphia will face the winner of the Penguins-Rangers series. The Penguins lead, 3-1, and Game 5 is today in Pittsburgh.
R.J. Umberger had two goals and an assist to finish the series with eight goals and one assist after he had a goal and an assist in seven games against Washington.
"Well, maybe someday I'll tell my grandkids or something like that, that would be fun," Umberger said. "I'm just going to take a moment, enjoy it but stay focused. There's plenty of time after it's over to celebrate it and enjoy it, but right now we have one thing on our minds."
Martin Biron stopped 31 shots for the Flyers, whose last appearance in the East final was in 2004 when they lost to Tampa Bay.
The Flyers' win also assured the first all-US Stanley Cup final since 2003 and extended Canada's title drought to 15 years. Montreal was the last Canadian team to win it all in 1993.
Philadelphia finished the 2006-07 season last overall in the NHL with 56 points, the lowest total in team history.
"That's unbelievable. You don't expect something like that," Umberger said of the turnaround. "I think our team was better than where we finished last year but at the same time the guys that were here last year really focused in the summer and came into the season right, and the organization did an incredible job retooling our team and giving us a chance to compete this year."
Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell scored as Philadelphia got three second-period goals to take a 4-3 lead. Mike Knuble scored into an empty net with 50 seconds left.
Andrei Kostitsyn scored at 2:13 of the third to draw Montreal even at 4.
Kostitsyn took Tomas Plekanec's drop pass and used Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen as a screen to put a shot past Biron.
Price returned to the Montreal net after he was replaced in Game 4 by Jaroslav Halak. The 20-year-old rookie made 31 saves, including a huge left pad save to stop Daniel Briere's shot on a breakaway with 8:19 remaining.
Guillaume Latendresse drove a slap shot off the right post during a Canadiens power play before Upshall's winner.
"They took advantage of their chances," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "This was probably the worst game that we played defensively. The other four games I thought we gave them not even 20 shots so we must have done something well in our zone, but every time they shot the puck at the net, it hit something or it went into a hole that wasn't too big. They got the breaks and they took advantage of it. You've got to give them credit for that."
Philadelphia scored three times in the second, beginning with Richards's goal at 14:02, which drew the Flyers within 3-2.
Richards got credit for his fourth goal of the playoffs when he put up his left hand as Umberger's shot sailed past him and Price. A video review upheld the goal.
"I tried to catch it and luckily my hand-eye is terrible," Richards said. "It went right off my shoulder and then I turned around for the rebound and it went in the net. That was the break we needed, I think."
Umberger scored his second goal of the game at 15:44 to tie it at 3 and Hartnell's third goal of the playoffs at 17:00 gave the Flyers their first lead of the game at 4-3.
Montreal got its first lead of the series - other than Tom Kostopoulos's overtime winner in Game 1 - when Plekanec scored on a power play at 4:29 of the first period. Plekanec got between Flyers defensemen Derian Hatcher and Braydon Coburn to tip Patrice Brisebois's shot from the right point past Biron.
Umberger tied it with a second-effort goal at 10:20 as he swiped his own rebound past Price after he shot on a 2-on-1 break.
Alex Kovalev got credit for his fifth goal of the playoffs as he restored the Canadiens' lead at 11:28 when Maxim Lapierre's wraparound shot went in off Kovalev's skate.