Six first period goals, 54 penalty minutes, and one goalie change were all elements of the Flyers’ 5-4 win in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup with the Sabres.
Brian Boucher made 20 saves on 21 shots in a relief appearance for Sergei Bobrovsky as five different Flyers scored to tie the series at one. Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist while Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, and Kimmo Timonen all had two assists in the crucial win for Philly, whose power play was more spirited than in Game 1 but still ended up just 1-for-10.
The Flyers couldn’t muster a single goal in Thursday’s series opener. On Saturday, however, it was a different story.
Four minutes into the game Giroux blew through Buffalo’s defense and blasted a shot over Ryan Miller’s glove hand. Scoring the first goal in the series for Philly, Giroux gave his team an early 1-0 lead.
Sure enough, it took a garbage goal from Thomas Vanek to tie the game. With Scott Hartnell returning to the ice from his roughing minor, a broken play led to Bobrovsky sliding out of the crease and Vanek putting home his first goal of the series to tie the game at 1-1 less than three minutes after Giroux’s goal.
Tempers flared as Paul Gaustad dumped Danny Briere at center ice before a face off. With no call on what was an obvious penalty to Gaustad, Hartnell decided to drop the gloves in defense of his teammate. Both Gaustad and Hartnell went to the box for fighting majors.
The fight generated enough energy for the Flyers to take back the lead. Kris Versteeg drove to the net producing two shots of his own before leaving Dan Carcillo with a nice rebound on a net that saw Miller out of position. Just 37 seconds after Vanek’s goal, Philly had their second lead on the night.
Unfortunately, the refs didn’t help Philly again as Vanek whacked away at the puck on the side of the net for several seconds before it finally trickled in to tie the game at two. As Darroll Powe sat in the box for cross checking, Vanek scored his second of the night on yet another Buffalo power-play chance thanks to an official review. On a play where most refs lose sight of the puck, Vanek managed to bank one in off Bobrovsky’s back — and not through the side of the net — just 2:23 after Carcillo’s tally.
Andrej Sekera gave the Sabres their first lead of the game and chased Bobrovsky from the net with a goal right after Philly’s first power-play opportunity. Taking advantage of a 3-on-1, Sekera kept the puck to himself and lifted the puck past Bob for a 3-2 Buffalo lead.
Bobrovsky, after saving 24 out of 25 in the first game, allowed three goals on seven shots in 12 1/2 minutes. Although none of the goals were necessarily his fault, Peter Laviolette decided to put in the veteran Boucher.
As the Flyers learned twice already to this point in the game, a one-goal lead isn’t safe. Just 44 seconds after Sekera’s goal, James van Riemsdyk made a beautiful dangle to score his first goal of the series and tie the game at three.
A total of 60 shots in Game 1 resulted in one goal, while 19 shots by both teams in Game 2 resulted in 6 goals.
After a bit of confusion as to who should go to the box, Tyler Myers joined Nathan Gerbe in the sin bin for a Philly 5-on-3. With 1:17 of two-man advantage, the Flyers produced many chances and a wealth of action around Miller, but no goals.
If the Flyers weren’t getting power-play opportunities in the first period, they definitely got them in the second period. Finally taking advantage courtesy of their fifth power play in the period, Ville Leino registered his first goal in the series.
Coming off the boards to the right of Miller, Leino dangled the puck and put it top shelf over Miller’s blocker side from the left circle to give the Flyers a 4-3 advantage.
The one-goal lead didn’t last long, before it was increased to two.
A Hartnell from the point shot deflected off of Briere’s left skate in front of the net and ticked off the left post to cross the goal-line for Philly’s fifth goal in the game. Two goals in a 1:51 span gave the orange and black their first two-goal lead on the night.
Both teams saw one more power-play opportunity before the end of the second period, but neither could capitalize on the man advantage leading to a Flyers’ 5-3 lead going into the third period.
Buffalo showed resilience and came out strong in the third period, forcing Philadelphia into two penalties early. Despite killing off both infractions, the aftermath of the second chance gave Buffalo their fourth goal.
Nine seconds after Kimmo Timonen’s tripping call, Cody McCormick planted himself in the crease and dunked home a pass from Rob Niedermayer to cut the Sabres’ deficit to 5-4.
Shortly after McCormick’s goal, Timonen went back to the box for delay of game. The Sabres couldn’t convert on their final power-play opportunity in the game.
Although they equaled the Flyers in shots, the Sabres couldn’t register a fifth goal to push the game to overtime allowing Philly to win.
The Flyers did equalize the series, but they’ll need to grab at least one win in Buffalo to regain home-ice advantage. A win is a win this time of year, but Philly can’t bank on scoring five goals against Miller every time or assume they’ll get 10 power-play chances.
On Monday night the Flyers look to take a 2-1 lead in the series as it shifts to HSBC Arena.
Notes: In Game 2′s against the Sabres in the playoffs, the Flyers are now 5-4. It took the Flyers 64 minutes to score a goal in the 2011 playoffs (Giroux goal 4:00 into the game tonight). Carcillo ended his 21-game goalless streak with his first period goal tonight (last came against NYR on 2/20). Hartnell fought for the first time since his bout with Keith Aulie on March 3rd. With the addition of Buffalo’s 5-shot second period, the Flyers have held the Sabres to 10 shots or less in three of the six periods so far in this series; the Flyers have only one period with 10 shots or less (9 in third period of Game 1). The Flyers are now 1-for-15 in the series on the power play. Game 2 is Monday at 7pm in Buffalo.