Can't the Flyers just decline power plays?

The Flyers converted one power play goal in 10 chances during Game 2. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

The official scoresheet nearly spilled onto a second page.

The numbers were flat out ridiculous: 6 goals, 6 penalties, 1 goaltender, 1 fight ... all before Game 2 was less than 14 minutes old.

Few numbers, though, were more mind-numbing that the Flyers’ power play. Buffalo took 8 different minor penalties through the first period and a half - and the Flyers seemed so disinterested in the man-advantage that at one point, they were better off declining and taking their chances at even strength.

They had squandered a full 1:56 with a two-man advantage - for the second game in a row.

Buffalo was shorthanded for 13 out of the 20 minutes in the second period. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said the Flyers’ performance was worthy of an Oscar.

“Any stick that was touching them, they were able to make it look good,” Miller said.

And whatever the Flyers did to earn the penalty, they did whatever they could to give the advantage back, going 0-for-7 to start the game and 0-for-13 to start the series.

“It’s kind of tough when you’re just hitting your head on the wall,” Ville Leino said.

Blind-squirrel-finds-nut jokes aside, it was bound to happen. The Flyers posted 13 shots on the power play through the first two periods alone. Peter Laviolette estimated that his team threw 25 attempts towards Ryan Miller with a parade of some of Buffalo’s best players, like Tyler Myers, Jason Pominville and Paul Gaustad sitting in the penalty box.

It was Leino who put the Flyers ahead, 4-3, with 6:24 remaining in the second period that changed their fortune.

And so, the Flyers breathe a sigh of relief - not just in the fact that they have evened their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series at one game apiece, but the fact that they have also broken the embarrassing extra-man drought.

“The goal was important,” Leino said. “The power play has been struggling a little bit, so we’re pretty happy we got one goal. I think it’s going to keep us confident for the next game.”

Whether one goal changes the Flyers’ overall fortune on the power play is anyone’s guess, but it certainly can’t help.

“When the whole team is working hard and drawing penalties and your power play is not really scoring, it’s disappointing and frustrating,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s tough. And we worked hard. We had lots of chances.”

It isn’t everyday, after all, that you’ll hear many teams say that they are happy getting just one goal on 10 chances - especially in a game when they gave up two power play goals against in the first 10 minutes of the contest. But that’s the reality the Flyers have faced not just in this series but over the last two months of the season.

Leino, in his own right, said that he felt “a lot more calm and cool” after scoring just his third goal since March 15.

And he’s hoping that will carry over to the rest of the unit. The last time the Flyers had 10 chances in a playoff game, it was also against Buffalo (April 24, 1998) and they also scored once.

“It’s going to open up some chances now,” Leino said. “I think we’re going to be more loose on the power play. It was important for us.”

In the end, it was the even strength play that separated the Flyers from Buffalo in Game 2. Despite playing even-up hockey for just 32 minutes, the Flyers outscored the Sabres 4-2 without any advantage.

For the most part, it was a strange game for both teams - as star players that don’t contribute on either the penalty kill or the power play were forced to sit for long stretches of time. The Flyers tried to even that out by skating 6 of the first 7 minutes of the third period down a man.

“It seemed like our power plays came in bunches,” Laviolette said. “Some guys were stuck playing too much, but when looking at the minutes, it seemed to even out because it was a fairly close call with the penalties. They all got a lot of work.”

If there’s one thing the Flyers know they could use more work on heading into Game 3, it’s the power play. They chose not to practice it during their off-day on Friday, and it nearly made them pay.

“There were times when maybe we could’ve put the game away,” Sean O’Donnell said. “Or certainly given ourselves breathing room. But, it’s baby steps. We got a goal tonight. Whether it was a good trip or a bad trip, you just have to keep moving forward.”

CHANGE CLOTHES: So, if the Flyers have their pick between the style of game that was a defensive battle like Thursday’s 1-0 loss or a 5-4 shootout-style win on Saturday night, which would Peter Laviolette’s team choose?

Roster-wise, it would seem that the Flyers would have the scoring depth to handle a run-and-gun type game, but Buffalo seemed comfortable in either situation with Ryan Miller in net.

“I don’t know if you know what you’re getting game to game,” Laviolette said. “You never know how it’s going to be played. It could be nine goals scored or one goal scored. I thought both games were great hockey but they were just played differently.”

Some said the first period of Game 2 reminded them of the old Broad Street Bullies. And that may not be such a good thing.

“I think it was a little bit too much Flyers hockey in the first,” O’Donnell said. “You know, we kind of needed to settle down a little. It’s hard when you’re asked to play on the edge and the fans are in it and they like seeing that stuff.  But you get running around a little bit and I think we got a little bit away from our game in the first.  Maybe scale it back a little with a little more composure.  It’s nice to see that enthusiasm but sometimes playoff hockey is about who is more composed, who plays the system better, who takes that punch to the head.”

STAT WATCH: Here are a few nuggets from Saturday’s 5-4 win:

  • The Flyers are 16-15 all-time when tied 1-1 in a playoff series. They are 14-17 in Game 3 in a playoff series when tied 1-1 after two games.
  • The Flyers are 18-3 all-time when leading a series 2-1 after 3 games.
  • The 6 combined goals in the first period were the most in a Flyers playoff game since May 20, 1997, Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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