<
>

LeClair scores in return

10/28/2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- John LeClair picked up where he left off in
training camp.

LeClair, playing his first game since breaking a bone in his
left foot during camp, had a goal and an assist, and Robert Esche
earned his sixth career shutout as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the
Montreal Canadiens 5-0 Monday night.

"LeClair was excellent," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It
looks like he never missed a beat from training camp."

Simon Gagne, Tony Amonte, Michel Handzus, and Marcus Ragnarsson
also scored for the Flyers, who ended a three-game winless streak
(0-2-1).

LeClair missed the first seven games of the season after getting
hit in the foot with a puck during training camp in West Point,
N.Y. He got hurt during perhaps the best training camp of his
career.

"I felt better than I thought I would tonight," LeClair said.
"I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out."

The Canadiens, who had won five of six, lost their second
straight.

Esche was rarely tested and finished with 20 saves in his first
win of the season. His best save came in the first period when he
stopped Mike Ribeiro following a Flyers' giveaway.

LeClair scored at 12:06 of the second period, taking a pass from
Justin Williams behind the goal and flipping it off the back post
and into the net to extend Philadelphia's lead to 4-0.

Earlier in the period, LeClair picked up an assist when Williams
found Handzus with a pass from behind the net.

Williams said that LeClair's return gave the Flyers a lift.

"He does so many things away from the puck that nobody sees,"
Williams said of LeClair. "He preoccupies at least one, sometimes
two guys in front of the net. And that allows a lot of room for
guys like me to try and make plays."

LeClair, acquired from Montreal in 1995, has scored 46 points
(29 goals, 17 assists) in 31 games against his former team.

"They keep reminding me of some of the stats I have against
Montreal," LeClair said. "I've been pretty fortunate against this
team.

"I don't think anybody ever walks into a game thinking 'I'm
going to score tonight.' I get kind of a laugh out of it every time
it happens. It's just one of those things."

Gagne and Amonte converted rebounds within a span of 3:18 in the
first period.

Gagne scored his first goal of the year at 5:38 when his shot
bounced of the skate of Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray.
Amonte's goal came at 8:56, after Montreal goaltender Jose Theodore
was unable to control a shot by Joni Pitkanen.

"The Flyers played well for 60 minutes," Theodore said.
"Every period they kept coming hard and we couldn't find our way
to turn it around."

Ragnarsson's first goal of the season came on a power play at
9:21 of the third period.

Montreal's best scoring chance came when Souray hit the post
during a power play early in the first period.

"They were sharper than us tonight," Ribeiro said. "They beat
us to a lot of loose pucks. We just couldn't recover after that
early deficit."
^Notes:@ Referee Terry Gregson left the game with a shoulder injury
with just over 10 minutes left in the first period, after colliding
with Montreal D Stephane Quintal. ... Amonte, Handzus, and Williams
have points in three consecutive games. ... Montreal played without
C Saku Koivu (sprained knee), LW Darren Langdon (pulled groin), and
LW Chad Kilger (eye injury). ... The Canadiens were coming off
their longest homestand of the season where they went 4-2-0. ...
Philadelphia D Chris Therien was back in the lineup after a
two-game conditioning assignment in the AHL.