When a player gets injured, somebody has an opportunity to step up and fill in. Tonight, that somebody was Nikolay Zherdev.
Stepping in for Andreas Nodl, Zherdev netted the game-winning goal in a Flyers’ 4-2 win in Game 3 which gave the visitors a 2-1 series lead. Jeff Carter and Kimmo Timonen also hit the net as Philly snapped a five-game playoff losing streak in upstate New York.
Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford scored, Marc-Andre Gragnani picked up two assists and Ryan Miller had 22 saves on 25 shots for Buffalo in the loss.
One of the Flyers’ biggest weaknesses so far in the series has been the power play. Going 1-for-10 last game, the Flyers needed to become more affective on the power play to give themselves a big edge on the Sabres. With Patrick Kaleta in the box, Carter opened the scoring.
As Darroll Powe stood in the crease after a play, Kaleta took a dumb penalty by roughing him up after the play. Kaleta’s minor hurt his team as Carter came flying down the boards to Miller’s left and ripped a wrist shot past the netminder’s blocker 1:02 into the man advantage.
Kaleta redeemed himself by drawing an interference call on Braydon Coburn halfway through the first period. Thanks to Buffalo’s man advantage, they tied the game at one with a Stafford goal 38 seconds into the power play.
Working off of Stafford’s power-play goal, the Sabres started dictating play. The pressure lead to Scott Hartnell taking two bad penalties. An interference and delay of game call in the same series of plays led to a four minute Buffalo power play.
Keeping the Sabres’ from scoring for the remainder of the first period, the Flyers went into the second period with 39 seconds left to kill off in Hartnell’s double minor.
Similar to Kaleta, Hartnell made up for his stupid penalties. Working to gain control of the puck in the offensive zone, Hartnell held the puck next to Miller’s left post and softly passed it to Danny Briere in the slot. Taking advantage of the open space, Briere roofed it over Miller as the goalie sprawled on the ice in a save attempt.
Late in the second period, a goal from each team made the score 3-2. Thanks to a great takeaway by Kris Versteeg at the offensive blue line, Mike Richards set up Zherdev for a slam dunk at the top of the crease. The Flyers’ 3-1 lead didn’t last long.
Giving up a horrible rebound, Boucher handed Gerbe a generous opportunity to cut the Buffalo deficit to one. The 5-foot-5 winger capitalized and put a shot top corner past Boucher’s glove hand 1:28 after Zherdev’s marker. The 1:48 left in the period went scoreless giving the Flyers a one-goal lead into the final 20 minutes.
Not having a strong defensive period in a while, the Flyers came through in tonight’s third period to hang on for the win. Despite being out shot 11-5 in the third stanza, the only goal in the period came on Timonen’s empty-netter with 18 seconds left in regulation.
The Flyers look to take a 3-1 series lead in Buffalo on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Notes: Against the Sabres in the playoffs, the Flyers improved to 5-4 in Game 3′s. Carter’s first period goal was his first goal in the playoffs since Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals and his first goal since April 1st. This was the Flyers first win on the road since March 29th (5-2 vs. Pens). The Flyers were out shot 16-6 in the first period. The Flyers picked up the lone goal of the third, reversing a trend that saw the Sabres outscore the Flyers 2-0 in the third period of the first two games of the series. In his first game of the playoffs, Jordan Leopold registered a minus-1 rating with 2 shots on net.