Flyers Win Track Meet, Tie Series at One
If Thursday night’s low-scoring game one between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres was a standstill, then Saturday’s game two was a drag race. In a game that lacked only defense, the Flyers found a way to knot the series at 1-1. Despite a horrific start by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, Philadelphia did what they had to do after Thursday’s disappointment; they avoided a 0-2 deficit in the series with their 5-4 victory.
The fireworks that waited until the third period to arrive in game one made their presence known just four minutes into game two. Flyers forward Claude Giroux took an outlet pass through the neutral zone and deked his way around the Buffalo defense before he let a quick wrist-shot loose. The shot whipped by goalie Ryan Miller on the former Vezina trophy winner’s glove-side for the game's first goal.
With the early goal, it looked like Philadelphia would open up the game on the Sabres, but Buffalo made sure that wasn’t the case. After the Flyers killed the first of two penalties in a 5-on-3 situation, Thomas Vanek converted on the remainder of the power play. Vanek’s goal came less than three minutes after the game’s opening tally and painted a picture of what was to come in game two.
After Vanek’s goal, the Flyers wasted no time taking the lead back when Daniel Carcillo knocked a Kris Versteeg rebound past Miller. The pesky fourth liner’s goal gave Philadelphia the lead just 37 seconds after they had lost it. But, once again Buffalo did their part in the seesaw battle.
Much like the first goal, it was Vanek that did the deed for the Sabres on the power play. After Darroll Powe took a crosschecking penalty on Cody McCormick number 26 in white knocked home a loose rebound when Bobrovsky failed to hug the post and freeze the puck.
Then, the pattern of scoring gained some variation when Andrej Sekera beat Bobrovsky on an odd man rush. Although Bobrovsky was to blame for making himself too small for the shot, it was defenseman Sean O’Donnell that was the main culprit for the chance. O’Donnell was caught on a failed pinch in the offensive zone that led to the rush, and Sekera buried the Sabres’ third goal. The goal chased Bobrovsky from net, which was no surprise as the young Russian allowed three goals on just seven shots.
With Brian Boucher in net, the Flyers evened the score when Giroux and defenseman Andrej Meszaros combined to force a Buffalo turnover in the offensive zone. The puck then found James van Riemsdyk, who dragged the puck and snapped a shot past Miller, much like the game’s opening goal from Giroux. With that, the scoring came to a close in the first period. Less than 48 hours after the two teams combined for one goal in 60 minutes of play, they combined for six in the first period alone.
“[There was] a lot of intensity, both teams came out to play,” Giroux told a TSN reporter during the first intermission. “Miller’s a good goalie, we’re trying to beat him by shooting and going to the net.”
If the plan for the Flyers was to get more pucks to the net, they came out executing to perfection. In the first period alone, the team shot the puck 13 times to Buffalo’s 10. Despite the tied score, the open ice style of play was clearly in Philadelphia’s favor.
It would be the Orange and Black that took back the lead in the second period, and in an unconventional way for the team. After failing to score in 14 power play opportunities, Ville Leino finally ended the slump when he walked in and beat Miller to the short side on a wrist-shot.
“Obviously until you score it’s kind of tough when you’re just hitting your head on the wall," Leino told the media afterwards. "So, it’s going to open up some chances now and I think were going to be more loose on the power play.”
In the spirit of quick scoring Saturday night, former Sabres star Daniel Briere obliged. Less than two minutes after Leino's tally with just 4:33 remaining in the second stanza, Briere’s skate deflected a Scott Hartnell shot past Miller to make the score 5-3. The goal was the forward's ninth on the season against his old team.
With the score unchanged until the third period, the scrappy Sabres continued to fight and claw their way into a contention. After Rob Niedermayer managed to throw a backhanded shot on net after lengthy possession, McCormick knocked the puck past Boucher. The goal made for an intense final 13:48 with the Wells Fargo Center crowd knowing the importance. Despite some quality chances by Buffalo, the Flyers managed to weather the storm and skate off with a tied series.
Now, the series heads to Buffalo for games three and four in what has become a best-of-five series. For Philadelphia to move on as they were expected to do as the series began, they’ll have to remedy a power play that is now 1/15 in the first two games. Saturday’s match-up was extremely sloppy defensively as the two teams combined for 18 power plays. With a raucous crowd waiting at HSBC Arena, Philadelphia will have to find a way to stay out of the penalty box.
As for the never-ending goalie situation in Philadelphia, anyone’s guess is the best guess. Head coach Peter Laviolette made that clear to reporters after Saturday’s win.
“I don’t talk about goaltenders,” he said plainly when asked about game three’s starting goalie. He may be the only one who doesn’t after Boucher’s .952 save percentage and the team’s response to his net presence on Saturday.