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.
If a team wants to go deep in the playoffs they have to make the other team's best players beat them. Patrick Kaleta is not one of those players. Scoring the first --and only -- goal in the series, Kaleta gave his team a 1-0 series lead against the higher-seeded Flyers as Ryan Miller stopped all 35 Flyers' shots for a 1-0 Buffalo win in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
The first period was frantic and fast-paced, but the score resulted in a scoreless tie. Even though the shot count was tied at 10, the Flyers spent a majority of the period in the offensive zone.
Handed two power-play chances in the period, the Flyers best chances came on their late period power-play. While Steve Montador sat in the box for holding with 1:21 left in the first period, Kimmo Timonen produced a couple opportunities with two shots on net.
Despite the dangling and passing ability of Kris Versteeg and Claude Giroux down low, Philly couldn't grab the lead as 39 seconds remained on Montador's penalty to start the second period.
The second period, similar to the first, saw a lot of pressure from both teams, but the Flyers still had more chances out shooting Buffalo 16-9. With the exception of a late period surge, the Sabres watched the Flyers spend a majority of the period peppering Miller.
Even with a 38 second two-man advantage, the Flyers still couldn't grab the first goal in the series. As Montador sat in the box for the second time in the game for tripping, Shaone Morrisonn joined his teammate 1:22 later for slashing. Eight Philly shots were answered with eight Miller saves during the 3:22 of power-play chances as Miller's save total reached 26 after two periods.
Entering the final period, the Flyers needed to break the ice and score the first goal in a game they deserved to win. The Flyers did the opposite and found themselves in a hole in the final 20 minutes.
Breaking the scoreless tie, Kaleta found the back of the net with less than six minutes played in the final period.
Reacting to a Marc-Andre Gragnani rebound, Kaleta found himself open in the slot to slam home the first goal of the series. The tally was set up when Buffalo's Paul Gaustad, normally a slick-skating winger, won a battle along the right boards near the blue line and chipped the puck back to the rookie defenseman.
Relentless pressure from the Flyers was to no avail down the stretch, which included yet another power-play chance with less than nine minutes to play.
Bobrovsky was pulled for an extra skater with 1:23 to go, but the Sabres managed to create more chances to the empty net than the Flyers did towards Miller.
Giroux had a right-circle shot blockered away in the last 30 seconds, but it was a relatively harmless chance from a distance.
It's a tough loss for the Flyers as they spent a majority of the game in the offensive zone and definitely provided the better scoring chances. Unfortunately, the breaks haven't been going the Flyers' way lately and tonight was no different. Shot after shot after shot were denied, but if the Flyers keep attacking the Sabres' net like they did tonight different results are likely to follow.
The power play was invisible again tonight as the Flyers went 0-for-5 with the man advantage. Chances were provided with the extra man, but if Philly had just put one past Miller (perhaps during the 5-on-3 in the second period) the Flyers would have won.
Philly looks to rebound late Saturday afternoon as they await a possible return from defenseman Chris Pronger. With a start time of 5 PM, the Flyers face a crucial game as it's important they don't enter Buffalo down 2-0 -- as they did 10 years ago.
Ed. note...Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said Friday afternoon that Pronger is still day-to-day and will be a game-time decision.
Notes: In 9 Game 1's against the Sabres, the Flyers fell to 5-4...In his first career playoff game, Bobrovsky saved 24 of 25 shots with his only error coming on the rebound to Kaleta...Ryan Miller upped his record to 5-2 against the Flyers in the playoffs with two shutouts (other came on 4/30/06)...Timonen and James van Riemsdyk both had a team-high six shots; JVR hit the post in the first period...The Flyers out shot the Sabres 25-15 in the final 40 minutes...Kaleta scored his second career playoff goal. Gragnani, in his first career playoff game, registered the primary assist on Kaleta's goal...Including the regular season, this is the third time the Flyers have lost a 1-0 game (2/13 vs. LA and 3/31 vs. ATL). The Flyers have now lost three straight games against the Sabres in the playoffs dating back to Miller's 3-0 shut out...Philly's been out scored 11-1 in that span.
With only two games this week, the Flyers went 1-0-1 capturing the Atlantic Division title. Although they still aren't playing their best hockey, the Flyers hung on to second place in the conference for a first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres. With the first game scheduled for tomorrow, the Flyers hope to benefit from having home-ice advantage.
Even though they played one of their best periods in the week, the Flyers had only a 1-0 lead going into the second period Friday night in Buffalo. After both teams scored a pair of goals in the middle period, a ridiculous Nathan Gerbe spin-o-rama backhand shot went top-shelf to tie the game at three halfway through the third period. Thomas Vanek scored 1:16 into overtime to give the Sabres the additional point and extend the Flyers' losing streak to five.
Despite nearly blowing their gigantic divisional lead, the Flyers came through in the final game of the year to clinch the division. With two goals in the opening 47 seconds, the Flyers kept rollling to a 7-4 win at home against the New York Islanders, a team they went 6-0-0 against during the 2010-2011 season.
Scott Hartnell had three goals and an assist this week. After opening the scoring against Buffalo, he also assisted on Danny Briere's second period goal. Hartnell also had two goals on Saturday, one of which came 47 seconds into the game.
Even with their 2-4-2 slide to end the season, the Flyers finished second in the Eastern Conference. In the opening round they'll take on the Buffalo Sabres, a team that went 8-1-1 to finish the season. The Flyers were 2-1-1 against the Sabres this season dropping the last two meetings.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-0-0. Giving the Flyers a run for their money, the Penguins still fell short in their attempt to win the division for the first time since 2008.
With their 10th shootout win on the season, the Penguins tied the Flyers for the Atlantic division lead on Friday night forcing Philadelphia to win against the Islanders. Allowing a Travis Hamonic goal with 35 seconds left, the Penguins choked away a late third period lead. No goals in overtime lead to a shootout where Chris Kunitz was the only player to score giving Pitt the additional point.
In their last game of the season, the Penguins beat the Thrashers 5-2 on Sunday in a game that had no importance. With Jordan Staal, Kunitz, James Neal, and Paul Martin sitting out, the Penguins still managed to score four goals in the second period. Mike Comrie scored his first goal of the year on an empty net opportunity in the final minutes.
Ben Lovejoy had the biggest offensive night on the week for the Pens registering three assists against the Thrashers. Some of the Pens' bruisers had some unexpected weeks as Mike Rupp had two goals and Eric Godard had two assists.
The Pens are the fourth seed and head into the playoffs on a four-game winning streak. Unfortunately, their last loss came against the team they're facing in the first round, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Home ice advantage will help out the Penguins a lot since they were 2-2-0 against the Lightning during the regular season.
New York Rangers: 1-1-0. Facing two non-playoff teams, the Rangers enter the playoffs winning the last game of the year against a divisional foe. Although they made the playoffs, the Rangers have a steep hill to climb if they want to advance playing the Capitals in the first round.
After being shut out by the Thrashers on Thursday 3-0, the Rangers bounced back with a 5-2 win to put themselves in the eigth and final playoff spot. Chris Drury and Ryan McDonagh scored their first goals of the year in the most important game of the season. Out scoring the Devils 4-0 in the last two periods, the Rangers had their playoff prayers answered as the Hurricanes lost to the Lightning later in the day.
The Washington Capitals haven't played too well in the playoffs in recent years, but the team has been playing more defensively sound. Aside from the fact it's uncommon for an eight seed to beat a one seed in the NHL, the Rangers don't have the most depth. Even with the lack of offense, the Rangers almost beat the Capitals two years ago in the first round when the seventh-seeded Rangers met the second-seeded Capitals. Maybe New York is able to pull off the upset this season.
New Jersey Devils: 1-1-0. The Devils won their last game of the season and won the NHL draft lottery. Despite missing the playoffs, the Devils did get lucky winning the draft lottery moving them from the eighth pick in the draft to the fourth.
Playing a team determined for the playoffs, the Devils lost to the Rangers on Saturday 5-2. Despite out scoring the Rangers 2-1 in the first period, the Devils gave up four unanswered goals leading to their three-goal defeat.
The following day the Devils ended the season on a good note beating the Bruins 3-2 at home. Even though Chris Kelly scored with four seconds left in the game, the Devils' fans cheered their team on until the buzzer sounded appreciating their team's efforts to make the playoffs late in the season.
Ilya Kovalchuk had a two-point game against the Rangers assisting on Palmieri's goal and scoring one of his own with just 42 seconds left in the period.
The Devils weren't intimidating this season, but next year New Jersey could potentially be the division champions. With the help of the fourth pick in this year's draft, the Devils will most likely receive better luck with injuries to key players. If the team carries the momentum gained from the second half of this season, the Devils could be a Cup contender next year.
New York Islanders: 0-2-1. Despite having the most games this week, the Islanders ended up being the only team in the division without a win.
After a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Wednesday, the Islanders dropped a shootout to the Pens and lost in a high-scoring game against the Flyers on Saturday.
Michael Grabner yet again was the Islander who performed the best offensively. With a two-goal against the Bruins on Wednesday, Grabner had three goals and an assist.
Constant goalie issues, injuries, and a stretch of 1-17-3 early in the season made it difficult for the Islanders to make the playoffs. There is a bright side on Long Island as they had five 20-goal scorers, two of which had 30; Michael Grabner 34 and Matt Moulson with 31 (John Tavares had 29). If Rick DiPietro can go one season with consistency, and no injuries, the Islanders have a decent shot to sneak into the playoffs as a seven or eight seed.