CHICAGO - For the crucial six-minute span of Sunday night's first period, it seemed as if Flyers goalie Michael Leighton was a refugee from 1961, the Kennedy-era season in which the Black Hawks last sipped from the Stanley Cup.
In the grainy, black-and-white highlights from '61 that were shown to the 22,305 United Center fans before Game 5 of this high-speed Cup Finals, the maskless goalies and helmetless players appeared to be slogging through an iceless pond.
Though Leighton, the smooth-saving surprise of this improbable Flyers postseason run, once again didn't get much defensive help, he appeared as slow and awkward as those skaters from half a century ago during the net-bending flurry that would catapault Chicago to 7-4 victory and a series lead of three games to two.
The Blackhawks would not relinquish the advantage they earned on those three goals by Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg within 5:58 of the opening period.
Leighton's brief trip back in time also caused Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to yank him for a second time in these Finals, sending in Brian Boucher to start the second period.
Since Boucher was only marginally better, Laviolette might have a tough decision picking a goalie for Wednesday's Game 6.
"We came out slow and gave them a lot of open looks at the net," Boucher said.
"We kind of let [Leighton] out to dry early," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said.
Amid the tumult the Hawks' first-period scoring surge created inside this west-side arena locals call "the Madhouse on Madison" - even Michael Jordan, wearing a Hawks jersey, was enthusiastically waving a red towel - you could almost hear the words Leighton uttered after another subpar outing here in Game 1.
"Yes, it's tough," Leighton had said then. "But we know that, all-around defensively, we didn't have a good game. In order to beat this team, we have to play better defensively, and I have to be better. I have to make some saves at key times."
Curiously, Leighton had begun this shootout looking much as he had in accumulating an impressive 2.14 goals-against average as the last Philadelphia goalie standing. He fought off several dead-on shots in a furious, Jonathan Toews-sparked flurry 7 1/2 minutes into the physical contest.
But with the score still at 0-0, a behind-the-net pass from Versteeg ticked off Chris Pronger's stick and out to Seabrook at the point. The Hawks' defenseman fired a shot that again nicked the suddenly defenseless Flyers star – this one off his skate – and redirected toward Leighton.
The goalie went down somewhat hesitantly, as if he weren't sure exactly what had happened. In doing so, he left an extra-inviting five-hole, through which the puck slid softly into the net.
Just 3:09 later, with a delayed cross-checking penalty called on the Flyers' Matt Carle, Leighton knocked away a Brent Sopel shot, directing it behind his net.
But for some reason, he was slow to retreat and block the near post. Bolland, after corralling the rebound, poked it easily into the opening before Leighton could get there, giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
Then, with just 1:45 left in the opening period, the goalie allowed a fairly long-range goal to Versteeg, who blasted home a shot from directly in front, just inside the Stanley Cup Final logo.
By then, even NBC knew what was coming, training its cameras on Boucher. Boucher leaned impassively over the boards, not looking overeager to get between the pipes on a night when the formidable Chicago offense was clicking like Jordan at his best.
If Leighton, 29, who earns a relatively meager $600,000 and is unsigned after this postseason, was hoping his stellar 13 games as the Flyers' last-hope goaltender was going to earn him a Philadelphia contract in 2011, Sunday night's performance had to be as disappointing for him as the team.