It’s hard enough to beat the other team in the playoffs, but it’s really hard to beat the refs as well.
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller turned in another perfect performance and rookie official Francois St. Laurent helped Buffalo eke out a 1-0 win in Game 4. Miller had a 32 save shutout and Jason Pominville picked up the lone goal in the first period as the Sabres tied the series at 2-2.
The Sabres came out strong and their work eventually paid off as they netted the first and only goal of the game. As Danny Syvret went into the corner, Rob Niedermayer walked to the left post with the puck, and dished across the crease, allowing Pominville to score as Boucher failed to get across in time.
The remaining 10:22 in the first period went scoreless, but the Flyers started applying severe pressure prior to intermission though they were out shot 13-10.
The second period didn’t see any scoring either as the Flyers out shot the Sabres 10-8, but ended the period on a bad note. As he stood along the boards near center ice, Flyers captain Mike Richards put up an elbow to defend himself against a charging Patrick Kaleta attempting to board him from behind. Naturally, Kaleta acted as if he was injured leading to a major elbowing call for Richards with 2.8 on the clock.
With 4:58 left on Richards’ major, the Flyers had a tall mountain to climb to start the third. A great job on the penalty kill allowed the Flyers to keep the Sabres off the scoreboard and keep their deficit at one.
The third saw an onslaught of Flyers’ chances, but all the shots were denied by Miller. Traffic in front and several rebound chances didn’t resulted in eight shots for the Flyers, but no goals.
Sudden Buffalo villain Danny Briere was robbed by Miller on an open shot with 8:50 left in regulation, then Boucher kept up his end of the bargain when he flashed the pad to deny Tyler Ennis’ breakaway chance with roughly 5 1/2 minutes to go.
Miller then hugged the left post while prone in the crease to smother a Richards chance seconds later, and made one last sprawling stop in a goalmouth scramble with 32.6 seconds to play.
Inconsistency in calls — particularly regarding the Orange and Black — was seen throughout the game. At times, the slightest of touches meant a minor, while other parts of the game saw a takedown go without a call. A James van Riemsdyk breakaway was cancelled out with ferocious holding, Dan Carcillo received a minor for being abused by Ryan Miller and Mike Weber, and Mike Richards received five minutes for self-defense.
Both goalies had impressive performances tonight. Unfortunately for Boucher, despite keeping up for Miller the entire game, one goal early in the game handed him the loss.
The Flyers hope to get fair officiating in Game 5, which will take place on Friday at 7:30 back home on South Broad Street.
Notes: Against the Sabres in the playoffs, the Flyers are now 3-5 in game 4′s. This is the first time the Flyers lost Game 4 in a series since the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Penguins (lost 4-2). Richards’ elbowing major tonight was his first major since his fight against Brandon Dubinsky on March 6. This was Miller’s third career playoff shutout; all three have come against the Flyers.