If a team wants to go deep in the playoffs they have to make the other team’s best players beat them. Patrick Kaleta is not one of those players. Scoring the first –and only — goal in the series, Kaleta gave his team a 1-0 series lead against the higher-seeded Flyers as Ryan Miller stopped all 35 Flyers’ shots for a 1-0 Buffalo win in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
The first period was frantic and fast-paced, but the score resulted in a scoreless tie. Even though the shot count was tied at 10, the Flyers spent a majority of the period in the offensive zone.
Handed two power-play chances in the period, the Flyers best chances came on their late period power-play. While Steve Montador sat in the box for holding with 1:21 left in the first period, Kimmo Timonen produced a couple opportunities with two shots on net.
Despite the dangling and passing ability of Kris Versteeg and Claude Giroux down low, Philly couldn’t grab the lead as 39 seconds remained on Montador’s penalty to start the second period.
The second period, similar to the first, saw a lot of pressure from both teams, but the Flyers still had more chances out shooting Buffalo 16-9. With the exception of a late period surge, the Sabres watched the Flyers spend a majority of the period peppering Miller.
Even with a 38 second two-man advantage, the Flyers still couldn’t grab the first goal in the series. As Montador sat in the box for the second time in the game for tripping, Shaone Morrisonn joined his teammate 1:22 later for slashing. Eight Philly shots were answered with eight Miller saves during the 3:22 of power-play chances as Miller’s save total reached 26 after two periods.
Entering the final period, the Flyers needed to break the ice and score the first goal in a game they deserved to win. The Flyers did the opposite and found themselves in a hole in the final 20 minutes.
Breaking the scoreless tie, Kaleta found the back of the net with less than six minutes played in the final period.
Reacting to a Marc-Andre Gragnani rebound, Kaleta found himself open in the slot to slam home the first goal of the series. The tally was set up when Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad, normally a slick-skating winger, won a battle along the right boards near the blue line and chipped the puck back to the rookie defenseman.
Relentless pressure from the Flyers was to no avail down the stretch, which included yet another power-play chance with less than nine minutes to play.
Bobrovsky was pulled for an extra skater with 1:23 to go, but the Sabres managed to create more chances to the empty net than the Flyers did towards Miller.
Giroux had a right-circle shot blockered away in the last 30 seconds, but it was a relatively harmless chance from a distance.
It’s a tough loss for the Flyers as they spent a majority of the game in the offensive zone and definitely provided the better scoring chances. Unfortunately, the breaks haven’t been going the Flyers’ way lately and tonight was no different. Shot after shot after shot were denied, but if the Flyers keep attacking the Sabres’ net like they did tonight different results are likely to follow.
The power play was invisible again tonight as the Flyers went 0-for-5 with the man advantage. Chances were provided with the extra man, but if Philly had just put one past Miller (perhaps during the 5-on-3 in the second period) the Flyers would have won.
Philly looks to rebound late Saturday afternoon as they await a possible return from defenseman Chris Pronger. With a start time of 5 PM, the Flyers face a crucial game as it’s important they don’t enter Buffalo down 2-0 — as they did 10 years ago.
Ed. note…Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said Friday afternoon that Pronger is still day-to-day and will be a game-time decision.
Notes: In 9 Game 1′s against the Sabres, the Flyers fell to 5-4…In his first career playoff game, Bobrovsky saved 24 of 25 shots with his only error coming on the rebound to Kaleta…Ryan Miller upped his record to 5-2 against the Flyers in the playoffs with two shutouts (other came on 4/30/06)…Timonen and James van Riemsdyk both had a team-high six shots; JVR hit the post in the first period…The Flyers out shot the Sabres 25-15 in the final 40 minutes…Kaleta scored his second career playoff goal. Gragnani, in his first career playoff game, registered the primary assist on Kaleta’s goal…Including the regular season, this is the third time the Flyers have lost a 1-0 game (2/13 vs. LA and 3/31 vs. ATL). The Flyers have now lost three straight games against the Sabres in the playoffs dating back to Miller’s 3-0 shut out…Philly’s been out scored 11-1 in that span.