For the second straight season, the Flyers had a hand in ending the Buffalo Sabres’ hopes to win the Stanley Cup, as Philadelphia beat the Northeast Division club 2-1 tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
Matt Read produced the game-winning goal late in the third period, while Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25-of-26 shots for his first win since March 24.
Read carried the puck through the neutral zone and blew by Robyn Regehr at the Sabres’ blue line before he headed towards Ryan Miller all alone. As he moved left-to-right, Read remembered Miller’s poke check from earlier in the contest and released a shot before Buffalo’s goaltender could repeat the action. With a backhander that beat Miller glove side, Read deposited his sixth game-winner of the year.
Marc-Andre Bourdon scored the game-tying goal earlier in the third as the hosts recovered from a slugggish 5-3 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday.
“Jake got the puck and he kind flinged it out of the zone and I saw a lot of ice open and I just went for it,” Read said. “The d-man stepped up on me and I don’t even know how I got by him. I just shot it and scored.”
Ville Leino had the Sabres’ lone goal, while Miller denied 33 Flyers’ shots in the loss. With the help of the Washington Capitals’ 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers tonight, the Sabres had their hopes of returning to the playoffs crushed.
“It’s not a fun time right now,” Leino said. “It’s really disappointing right now to end the season so early.”
Tonight’s win, paired with Pittsburgh’s 5-2 victory over New York, means the Flyers locked up the fifth seed and will open the playoffs on the road against the Pens in the friendly confines of CONSOL Energy Center at a date to be determined.
Earlier in the day, the National Hockey League announced that all playoff series’ times will be announced on Sunday at 1 p.m. (et).
Although there wasn’t any scoring in the opening 20 minutes, the Flyers had many chances to grab the game’s first goal.
Philly’s first chance came on a power play thanks to a too many men on the ice bench minor to Buffalo. In the first seconds of the man advantage, a Scott Hartnell deflection hit the pipe before the Sabres were able to move the biscuit to safety.
Shortly after the power play, a 3-on-1 led by Brayden Schenn just missed a Flyers’ 1-0 lead, as Schenn’s pass failed to hit Wayne Simmonds’ stick in front.
Later in the period, a scrum ensued in front of Miller, which inexplicably awarded Buffalo with their first power play of the game. Despite the fact he face washed Claude Giroux to the ice, pushed the Flyers’ forward in the back of the head while he was down, and continued to push Giroux around after he got back on his skates, Mike Weber didn’t make a trip to the sin bin. Hartnell was the only player involved in the skirmish to be sent to the box.
On the penalty kill, Read almost gave Philly the lead with a breakaway opportunity. Unfortunately, Miller poke checked the puck away from Read at the last second to disrupt his shot attempt.
After Buffalo’s failed power play, the period ended with both Simmonds and Weber being handed roughing minors, as the Wayne Train stood up for Giroux by pushing Buffalo’s d-man around before a faceoff in the Sabres’ zone. Jody Shelley also pushed Weber around for his actions earlier in the stanza.
In the middle period, a former Flyer beat Bryzgalov to give the Sabres a one-goal advantage to start the third period.
For most of the second period, the Broad Street Bullies had the upper hand in scoring chances. That changed with 2:34 left in the stanza.
A Regehr play from the point led to a couple of chances from in close by Drew Stafford, the second of which was a backhanded shot that clanked off the near post to draw Bryzgalov out of position. In the crease, Leino out worked Matt Carle for the loose puck and slammed it home for his eighth of the season.
For the final few minutes of the period, the Sabres and Flyers exchanged scoring chances with Buffalo getting a couple more opportunities.
Although they were out shot 19-16 overall in the first 40 minutes, the Sabres out shot the Flyers 13-10 in the middle stanza and entered the final period with the all-important lead.
In the third period, the Sabres nearly extended their lead to two before the hosts awoke and tied the game.
A two-on-one for Buffalo led to Marcus Foligno in on Bryzgalov all by himself. After the Sabres’ forward moved the puck to his backhand he was unable to lift a shot over Bryz’s sprawled right leg, as the Orange and Black’s netminder came up with a clutch save.
Minutes later, Bourdon blasted a slap shot from the top of the circle past Miller for his second goal in Philly’s last three games.
After he received a pass from Giroux at the left point, Andreas Lilja moved it across the blue line to Bourdon. With a one-timer, Bourdon beat Miller far side for his fourth goal with Philadelphia this season.
With their season on the line, the Sabres watched the Orange and Black dictate play in Buffalo’s zone for the final two minutes before time ran out for a Flyers’ 2-1 win. Aiding in the effort was a herculean shift from Jagr/Giroux/Hartnell, who played keep-away for roughly 45 seconds while Miller was powerless to leave the crease for an extra attacker.
Philly concludes the regular season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon, a game whose tenor is still up for debate given the lack of clinching scenarios.
“While there’ll be no juggling in the standings, given the choice to beat the Penguins or lose to the Penguins, we want to win,” sad Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “The objective remains the same.”
Notes: The Flyers have won six straight games against the Sabres dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and finished off their second regular-season series sweep over Buffalo in the last four seasons…Read’s goal gives him two more than Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, who is second in the league for goals by a rookie. Read’s goal also gives him one more game-winner than Landeskog, who ranks second amongst rookies with five…The Flyers didn’t allow a goal in the first period for the first time in five games. It’s the first time the Flyers have taken part in a scoreless first period since their 3-0 win over the Devils on March 13…Tonight was Bryzgalov’s 18th decision of the season where he allowed one goal against or less. He improved to 15-1-2 in those games…With his secondary assist on Bourdon’s tally, Giroux totaled six points (all assists) at home against the Sabres. It’s the most points he’s had at home against any team this season..The Flyers have allowed the first goal in the last four games and nine of the last 11 contests…The Flyers upped their record to 14-3-3 against the Northeast Division this season (BOS 1-1-2, OTT 2-1-1, BUF 4-0-0, TOR 4-0-0, MTL 3-1-0).