The game wasn't pretty, but it's what the Flyers needed; a win.
Lacking consistency in net, the Flyers fought back from a 3-1 deficit after the first period and found a way to force the game to overtime with a Scott Hartnell third period goal setting up the deciding marker by Ville Leino in overtime to win 5-4.
Danny Briere had two goals and Mike Richards had two assists while Brian Boucher got the win making 24 saves on 25 shots after relieving Michael Leighton to start the second period.
Sunday's game started off eerily similar to Friday's Game 5. Two easily saveable shots led to a Buffalo lead in the first period. A wrist shot from Rob Niedermayer and a boucing puck that was redirected by Thomas Vanek gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead only 8:41 into the game.
Keeping the game close, Briere scored the first of his two goals just over six minutes after Vanek's tally. Crashing the net, Briere grabbed the puck in front and roofed it over a sprawled out Ryan Miller to cut the deficit to one.
Unfortunately, the Flyers saw the deficit expand just before the end of the first period. With the man advantage, Vanek made Leighton look foolish with a between-the-legs shot that found the netminder's five-hole to put the lead back at two with just 33 seconds left.
Opening the second period, the Flyers found just what they needed in a quick goal from James van Riemsdyk. Claude Giroux won a faceoff that dribbled out to the slot where JVR slammed home a slap shot 49 seconds into the period moving the Flyers within one.
By the middle of the second, the Flyers had clawed their way back to a tie. As Jordan Leopold sat in the box for holding, Briere scored his second goal on the night with a shot through traffic from the inner edge of the left circle 8:43 into the period for a 3-3 contest.
That tie didn't hold up too long, as the Flyers cancelled out hard work on the penalty kill just to watch Nathan Gerbe give Buffalo a 4-3 lead late. After killing off 1:09 of 5-on-3, Gerbe pulled up to the top of the circles and ripped a wrist shot that fooled Boucher 12 seconds after the penalty's expiration.
The Flyers were left with 20 minutes to salvage their season. With the season on the line, who do the Flyers turn to? Hartnell.
Grabbing the puck in the slot from Richards, Hartnell slammed home the game-tying goal with 9:17 left in regulation-- beating a Sabres defenseman and an out-of-position Miller.
Fortunately for Philly, they were on the winning side on this warm Spring holiday.
Kris Versteeg had his initial shot blocked on the right wing, but he recouped and lifted another chance high on Miller's blocker side. The puck managed to hit Richards in front, then slide beyond Miller's reach to the right side where Leino was waiting. Finally putting a stick on the puck, Leino put it over the goal line to tie the series at three with a 5-4 overtime win.
Goaltending was an issue yet again tonight. Last game, Boucher tripped up and Leighton had to fill in. Tonight, Leighton tripped up and Bouher had to fill in. Hopefully on Tuesday, Boucher starts off the game similar to how he finished the game tonight.
Notes: Through the first period Sunday, the Sabres had outscored the Flyers by a gaudy 18-2 margin in 140 minutes worth of Game 6s (8-0 in 2001, 7-1 in 2006)...This is the Flyers first overtime win in a Game 6 since Simon Gagne's goal in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay...Despite being out scored 3-1 in the first period, the Flyers out shot the Sabres 17-8. Mike Weber was a minus-3 on the day.
After falling in a 3-0 hole before the end of the first, the Flyers fought back to tie it at three only to lose in overtime. Tyler Ennis opened the scoring and closed the scoring for the game netting the overtime winner 5:31 past regulation. Ryan Miller had 36 saves while Michael Leighton (yup, that Michael Leighton) gets the loss in a relief appearance for Brian Boucher.
Nothing takes the energy out of the home crowd faster than an early soft goal. Ennis let the Flyers experience that with a weak shot to Boucher's right that found it's way in 2:24 into the game. The goal wasn't Boucher's only mistake.
Thomas Vanek extended the Sabres lead to two just 1:27 later as his shot along the goal-line to Boucher's left hit the netminder in the back of the leg and in. Boucher, one who usually keeps his team calm and collected, put his team in a 2-0 hole early.
The damage wasn't done for the Flyers as Marc-Andre Gragnani scored on the power play later in the period. Gragnani's marker with the man advantage forced Peter Laviolette to bring in Michael Leighton. Boucher allowed three goals on 11 shots.
Keeping the Sabres off the scoresheet for the remainder of the first, the Flyers kept the deficit to three entering the second period. Starting to create several offensive chances, the Flyers finally capitalized halfway through the period. Controlling the rebound from an Andrej Meszaros, James van Riemsdyk slipped it past Miller who was outside of the crease. JVR's craftiness opened the door for the Flyers to comeback.
After helping his team score their first goal on the night, Meszaros netted one himself. Just 1:45 after JVR's goal, Meszaros let go of a bomb that found it's way through traffic and into the net to cut the Sabres' lead to one.
The comeback wasn't complete yet, but the Flyers were coming closer by the second. Entering the final period of the play, the Flyers were still trailing by a goal after out shooting the Sabres 15-5 in the middle stanza.
It didn't take too much time for the Flyers to tie it up in the third as Danny Briere scored 3:36 into the period. As Kris Versteeg fell to the ice behind the Sabres' net, he found a way to slide the puck to Mike Richards, who then passed it across the ice to Briere. Receiving the pass, Briere rushed to the net and put home a backhander past Miller to tie the score at three.
Despite several scoring chances and forcing Buffalo to ice the puck several times, the Flyer couldn't find the game-winner in regulation as the game was sent into overtime.
Starting off the overtime how they ended the third period, the Flyers pressured the Sabres in the defensive zone early forcing the Sabres to ice the puck multiple times in a row. Unfortunately, Philly's hard work didn't pay off.
On just their third shot in overtime, the Sabres found the back of the net to take a 3-2 series lead. Mike Weber ripped a slap shot from the point that Leighton kiced right to the stick of Ennis for his second goal on the night.
The goaltending carousel continued tonight as Leighton found ice time tonight saving 20 of 21 shots. Saving all 18 shots in regulation, Leighton's only mistake on the night was his rebound on Weber's shot. Not too bad for a guy who only played in one game this year spending most of the season with the Phantoms.
One has to feel bad for Boucher. After leading his team to victory in Games 2 and 3, Boucher just didn't bring his game tonight. Yes, he also lost Game 4, but he allowed only one goal that most goalies in the league couldn't stop. In the most impactful game of the series so far, Boucher essentially spotted the Sabres' a two-goal lead. Is his confidence shot? Does Sergei Bobrovsky find his way to the bench next game?
Since there was so much criticism aimed in their direction last game it's only fair to point out how well the officiating was tonight. Obviously, there were some calls the Flyers wished would have gone their way, but the game was called fairly both ways. After not standing a chance in Game 4 due to the officials, the Flyers didn't face a second opponent in the refs tonight.
Notes: Matt Carle, despite making several sound defensive plays, was a -2 tonight. JVR had a game-high 8 shots. Briere had a game-high four PIM. Gragnani now has one goal and four assists in the series.
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.
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.
Six first period goals, 54 penalty minutes, and one goalie change were all elements of the Flyers' 5-4 win in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup with the Sabres.
Brian Boucher made 20 saves on 21 shots in a relief appearance for Sergei Bobrovsky as five different Flyers scored to tie the series at one. Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist while Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, and Kimmo Timonen all had two assists in the crucial win for Philly, whose power play was more spirited than in Game 1 but still ended up just 1-for-10.
The Flyers couldn't muster a single goal in Thursday's series opener. On Saturday, however, it was a different story.
Four minutes into the game Giroux blew through Buffalo's defense and blasted a shot over Ryan Miller's glove hand. Scoring the first goal in the series for Philly, Giroux gave his team an early 1-0 lead.
Sure enough, it took a garbage goal from Thomas Vanek to tie the game. With Scott Hartnell returning to the ice from his roughing minor, a broken play led to Bobrovsky sliding out of the crease and Vanek putting home his first goal of the series to tie the game at 1-1 less than three minutes after Giroux's goal.
Tempers flared as Paul Gaustad dumped Danny Briere at center ice before a face off. With no call on what was an obvious penalty to Gaustad, Hartnell decided to drop the gloves in defense of his teammate. Both Gaustad and Hartnell went to the box for fighting majors.
The fight generated enough energy for the Flyers to take back the lead. Kris Versteeg drove to the net producing two shots of his own before leaving Dan Carcillo with a nice rebound on a net that saw Miller out of position. Just 37 seconds after Vanek's goal, Philly had their second lead on the night.
Unfortunately, the refs didn't help Philly again as Vanek whacked away at the puck on the side of the net for several seconds before it finally trickled in to tie the game at two. As Darroll Powe sat in the box for cross checking, Vanek scored his second of the night on yet another Buffalo power-play chance thanks to an official review. On a play where most refs lose sight of the puck, Vanek managed to bank one in off Bobrovsky's back -- and not through the side of the net -- just 2:23 after Carcillo's tally.
Andrej Sekera gave the Sabres their first lead of the game and chased Bobrovsky from the net with a goal right after Philly's first power-play opportunity. Taking advantage of a 3-on-1, Sekera kept the puck to himself and lifted the puck past Bob for a 3-2 Buffalo lead.
Bobrovsky, after saving 24 out of 25 in the first game, allowed three goals on seven shots in 12 1/2 minutes. Although none of the goals were necessarily his fault, Peter Laviolette decided to put in the veteran Boucher.
As the Flyers learned twice already to this point in the game, a one-goal lead isn't safe. Just 44 seconds after Sekera's goal, James van Riemsdyk made a beautiful dangle to score his first goal of the series and tie the game at three.
A total of 60 shots in Game 1 resulted in one goal, while 19 shots by both teams in Game 2 resulted in 6 goals.
After a bit of confusion as to who should go to the box, Tyler Myers joined Nathan Gerbe in the sin bin for a Philly 5-on-3. With 1:17 of two-man advantage, the Flyers produced many chances and a wealth of action around Miller, but no goals.
If the Flyers weren't getting power-play opportunities in the first period, they definitely got them in the second period. Finally taking advantage courtesy of their fifth power play in the period, Ville Leino registered his first goal in the series.
Coming off the boards to the right of Miller, Leino dangled the puck and put it top shelf over Miller's blocker side from the left circle to give the Flyers a 4-3 advantage.
The one-goal lead didn't last long, before it was increased to two.
A Hartnell from the point shot deflected off of Briere's left skate in front of the net and ticked off the left post to cross the goal-line for Philly's fifth goal in the game. Two goals in a 1:51 span gave the orange and black their first two-goal lead on the night.
Both teams saw one more power-play opportunity before the end of the second period, but neither could capitalize on the man advantage leading to a Flyers' 5-3 lead going into the third period.
Buffalo showed resilience and came out strong in the third period, forcing Philadelphia into two penalties early. Despite killing off both infractions, the aftermath of the second chance gave Buffalo their fourth goal.
Nine seconds after Kimmo Timonen's tripping call, Cody McCormick planted himself in the crease and dunked home a pass from Rob Niedermayer to cut the Sabres' deficit to 5-4.
Shortly after McCormick's goal, Timonen went back to the box for delay of game. The Sabres couldn't convert on their final power-play opportunity in the game.
Although they equaled the Flyers in shots, the Sabres couldn't register a fifth goal to push the game to overtime allowing Philly to win.
The Flyers did equalize the series, but they'll need to grab at least one win in Buffalo to regain home-ice advantage. A win is a win this time of year, but Philly can't bank on scoring five goals against Miller every time or assume they'll get 10 power-play chances.
On Monday night the Flyers look to take a 2-1 lead in the series as it shifts to HSBC Arena.
Notes: In Game 2's against the Sabres in the playoffs, the Flyers are now 5-4. It took the Flyers 64 minutes to score a goal in the 2011 playoffs (Giroux goal 4:00 into the game tonight). Carcillo ended his 21-game goalless streak with his first period goal tonight (last came against NYR on 2/20). Hartnell fought for the first time since his bout with Keith Aulie on March 3rd. With the addition of Buffalo's 5-shot second period, the Flyers have held the Sabres to 10 shots or less in three of the six periods so far in this series; the Flyers have only one period with 10 shots or less (9 in third period of Game 1). The Flyers are now 1-for-15 in the series on the power play. Game 2 is Monday at 7pm in Buffalo.