MONTREAL - After long injury layoffs, Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere - two players who originally were told they would miss the rest of the season - returned to the Flyers' lineup and played important roles in Philadelphia's pivotal 3-0 win over Montreal on Saturday at the Bell Centre.

Carter, who made a dazzling move to get free for a shot but was stopped by Jaroslav Halak during a first-period power play, tied for the team lead in shots (four) and hits (four) while winning three of four face-offs. Carter, who scored a team-high 33 goals in the regular season, played 13 minutes, 51 seconds, including 1:32 on the power play.

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Laperriere played 9:13 and was a defensive presence as the Flyers notched their third shutout of the series and took a three-games-to-one lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

"Obviously, they're both impact players. They were a big part of what we did today and during the season," said goalie Michael Leighton after becoming the first netminder in Flyers history with three shutouts in a four-game playoff span. "To have them both back at the same time was a good confidence-booster for us, and both of them played great. For being off so long, they both jumped into the lineup and did what they've been doing all year."

Laperriere hadn't played since he blocked a shot on April 22 against New Jersey and suffered a broken orbital bone, a brain bruise and a concussion. In that Round 1 game, he received almost 70 stitches above his right eye.

"You know what?  It took a little miracle," said Laperriere, who played on a line with Blair Betts and Darroll Powe. "They told me I had a chance to come back.  I put [in] a lot of effort to return to the lineup.  It is a great night.   [Being out] was the worst time of my career, sitting out and watching the team doing so well.

"The good news is that since they were playing so well, it gave me some time to get healthy.  I am so proud of the boys and being a part of history that we are riding right now."

Carter broke his right foot when he was hit by a shot taken by teammate Chris Pronger in an April 20 playoff game against New Jersey.

"It's awesome," said Carter of his return to the lineup. He had broken the other foot earlier in the season. "When I got my second foot [injury], I was told my season was over. So I was being the cheerleader for the boys."

Carter, who is not 100 percent and must build up the muscles that have atrophied in his ankle, calf and quad, said he received a call from trainer Jim McCrossin last weekend, telling him "there's a chance I might be able to play, so that definitely lifted my spirits. I love to play hockey and this is the best time of year to play, so I want to be out there."

After Friday's practice, Carter said, he told coach Peter Laviolette he thought he could give the team "a pretty good 10, 12 minutes, and I left it up to him."

He played right wing on a line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.

Dan Carcillo and Andreas Nodl were healthy scratches.

Benching the scrappy Carcillo, Laviolotte said, was "the toughest thing I had to do all year."

Carcillo has not been as effective since suffering a knee injury in the previous series against Boston.

Sand scandal

During the NBC telecast, broadcaster Pierre McGuire said there was sand or some foreign substance on the runway to the Flyers' locker room. He said the Flyers laid down towels atop the substance.

The implication was that Montreal was underhandedly trying to get sand in the visitors' skates to slow them down.

Speaking in French after the game, Flyers forward Claude Giroux said he didn't know what the substance was, but it created a big dent in his blade forcing him to miss a couple of shifts. Giroux added that Richards also had dents in his skate blade.

Richards said the team equipment manager said the substance was larger than sand pellets. Several Flyers said their skates needed repairs during the game and Richards said he had to have his skates repaired five times.

Return trip

Pat Hickey, the Montreal Gazette writer whose car was vandalized during Game 1 at the Wachovia Center, said he has received close to 500 e-mails from fans - and 95 or 96 percent are apologetic.

Dan Flannery, who posted a photo of the Quebec license plate that was stolen from the writer's car, was scheduled to be questioned by Philadelphia police Saturday.

Hickey said he will drive another car - his wife's - to Game 5 in Philadelphia on Monday.

Breakaways

Some Flyers thought a penalty shot should have been awarded when Montreal defenseman Hal Gill stretched his body across the crease and prevented a loose puck from going into the net in the first period. No penalty shot was awarded, however, because Gill was already lying down when the shot inadvertently went into him.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.