Despite racking up an early three-goal lead and chasing Ryan Miller in the process, the Flyers saw all but one of those early scores go to waste, holding on to beat the Sabres 3-2 tonight in Buffalo.
With the exception of two unlucky bounces, Ilya Bryzgalov provided another stellar performance by making 29 saves, while ex-Flyer Ville Leino had no points in his first game against Philly since departing as a free agent.
Nine different Flyers registered a point tonight with Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk, and Scott Hartnell providing the goals within the first seven minutes of the game. Miller, who was yanked before seven minutes were played, made eight stops in defeat.
The memory of Thursday night’s roller-hockey-type final against Winnipeg, and the Flyers have bounced back with two defensively-sound performances –allowing only three goals in the last six periods.
Dominating the first ten minutes of the game tonight, the Flyers slowly lost the upper hand allowing the Sabres to creep back in the game. A common problem seen in last year’s squad, the Flyers were just barely able to fend off the Sabres’ comeback with tight defense late and held on for the narrow victory.
The game was basically won in the opening 6:23 when the visitors pumped in hree goals to chase Miller.
Couturier drew first blood, netting his third goal of the season at the 1:43 mark with assists from Andreas Lilja and Jakub Voracek.
Just 13 seconds later, van Riemsdyk came flying down along the boards to Miller’s right and snapped off wrister that blew by the Sabres netminder in the top corner glove-side for his fifth goal of the season and a 2-0 Philly lead.
It wasn’t too much longer until Hartnell scored on what might possibly be the hardest shot he’s released in years. The much-maligned Saskatchewan native’s fifth goal of the season – a blast just inside the far post and crossbar – called to mind a similar drive against Carey Price in Game 5 of the 2008 Eastern Finals, brought on Jhonas Enroth. Miller ended his night with eight saves on 11 Philly shots.
The Sabres got the message and slowly began to turn up the heat. Their opening salvo came when an Andrej Sekera shot bested Bryzgalov 7:49 into the second period. Releasing a slapper from the point, Sekera’s shot bounced off the end boards and back into Bryzgalov’s crease hitting the back of the goaltender’s leg then trickling past the goal line to cut Philly’s lead to 3-1.
Hard work was slowly starting to help the Sabres as yet another fortunate bounce got them to within one goal of a tie halfway through the game. After Thomas Vanek fumbled away a breakaway opportunity, Luke Adam threw a puck to the slot from the corner and it caromed off Kimmo Timonen’s skate and into the Flyers’ net to make the score 3-2 with just 11:41 left in regulation.
Hanging on for dear life in the final ten minutes of the game, the Flyers managed to escape several scoring chances from the Sabres in the dying minutes to cling on to the 3-2 victory.
The Flyers didn’t play a full 60 minutes tonight, but luckily came through with a victory. The second and third periods were dominated by the Sabres as they out shot the Flyers 23-12 in the final 40 minutes of regulation. The Sabres were knocking on the doorstep for the final minute of the game, but thankfully Bryzgalov came through in the clutch and denied several chances to close out the game.
Bryzgalov has turned things around since his severe self-criticism following Thursday night’s loss. In the last two games, Bryzgalov has made 53 saves on 56 shots and just missed a shutout against the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
He has displayed more confidence in the last few days leading to more confidence in the Flyers’ skaters as well. The three goals that have been scored on Bryzgalov in the last two games could have easily killed his confidence, but Bryz has found a way to stay strong and stay on track.
The Flyers look to extend their win streak to three games tomorrow night as they return to Philly to host the New Jersey Devils.
Notes: The Flyers have won three straight games against the Sabres dating back to Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and have also won back-to-back games in Buffalo (Game 6 of the ECQF)…Jagr now has a five-game point streak (5 goals, 3 assists)…In his first career game against the Flyers, Leino had no points and was even in 19:51 of ice time…Couturier’s goal in the first period was his first point since his goal in the dying seconds of Philly’s loss to the Caps on October 20…JVR’s goal in the first was his fifth of the season and his second goal that came in the first period of a game (Vancouver game on October 12)…JVR’s goal and Hartnell’s goal in the first period, seperated by only 13 seconds, is the shortest time between two Flyers’ goals all season long…This is the first time the Sabres have allowed three goals in the first period of a game all season long…Tonight was Talbot’s 400th career NHL game; he’s played 12 with the Flyers..Sekera’s goal in the second period ended a 64:38 minute shutout streak for Bryzgalov spanning back to the second period of Saturday’s 5-1 win against Carolina…The Flyers have been out scored 7-3 in their last four second periods.