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 Blackhawks last sipped from the Stanley Cup.
In the grainy, black-and-white highlights from 1961 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 catapult Chicago to a 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 minutes, 58 seconds 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.
"Anytime you get pulled, you're upset," Leighton said. "But we responded well there in the second with a quick goal."
Since Boucher was only marginally better, Laviolette might have a tough decision picking a goalie for Wednesday's Game 6.
The Hawks' first-period scoring surge created a noisy tumult inside this West Side arena locals call "the Madhouse on Madison." By the time Versteeg's goal got by Leighton, even Michael Jordan, wearing a Hawks jersey, was enthusiastically waving a red towel.
Even though Leighton took a puck to the knee in warm-ups, he had begun this shoot-out looking much as he had in accumulating an impressive 2.14 goals-against average as the last Philadelphia goalie standing.
"It [the knee] didn't affect the way I played," he said. "It was only a bruise."
Early on, Leighton fought off several dead-on shots, especially a trio that came in a furious, Jonathan Toews-sparked flurry 71/2 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, Leighton knocked away a Brent Sopel shot. 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.
"He put it off my skate and in," said Leighton. "That's really the only goal I was upset about."
But, 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 Finals 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.
"We came out slow," Boucher said. "We gave them a lot of open looks at the net."
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 for the team.