BUFFALO -- It was a wild night and a wildly-entertaining game but, in the end, the Flyers lost their chance to do the stranglehold thing on their opening round playoff series with the Sabres.
Instead, because of their 1-0 defeat on Wednesday night, the Flyers go home now with the series tied at two games apiece. Despite a desperate final period where they had the better of the territory and the chances, the Flyers could not solve Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller.
Game 5 is Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. However it goes, the first four games -- when strictly viewed as an entertainment vehicle -- have been everything that Stanley Cup hockey is supposed to be about. Game 4 ended with a series of fights at the final horn.
The Flyers fully expected that the Sabres would come at them in waves at the start, and their expectations were fulfilled. The only goal came in the middle of the first period. with Jason Pominville scoring on the back end of a nice bit of tic-tac-toe. But the Sabres also hit a couple of posts -- first a blast by Tyler Myers, then by Brad Boyes. They could have had a bigger lead. Maybe they should have.
But they didn’t. The Flyers lost Jeff Carter at the end of the first period to an undisclosed lower body injury after a collision with Myers. It was Myers who appeared the more wobbly, but he came back and Carter did not.
Still, as as the second period played its way out, the Flyers were getting the better of the play and the chances. Darroll Powe also hit a post for the Flyers, and you could sense a clear momentum shift. But then came the game’s most controversial moment.
With 3 seconds left in the second period, as he prepared to absorb a hit along the boards from the Sabres’ Patrick Kaleta, Flyers captain Mike Richards got his elbow up and hit Kaleta in the face. Referee Francois St. Laurent immediately signaled Richards for a 5-minute elbowing penalty, a call that infuriated Richards and the Flyers’ bench.
It could have turned the game. That it didn’t was to the credit of penalty killers Blair Betts and Powe, primarily. In the 5 minutes, the Sabres got only two shots on goal (and the Flyers got one). In the last 2 minutes of the power play, the crowd at HSBC Arena was booing the home team.
After all of that, the Flyers had clearly avoided disaster. However, they were still trailing by 1-0.
With 8:50 remaining in the third, Ryan Miller made the save of the series for the Sabres. A puck was kept in at the blue line, Danny Briere received a pass alone on the doorstep, behind everyone, and had time to go backhand-forehand-backhand-forehand, only to have Miller hold his ground and then snatch Briere’s shot out of the air with his glove hand.
Then came as entertaining a stretch as we have seen in the series. On one end, Brian Boucher was spectacular in the Flyers’ net, making an acrobatic pad save on a breakaway by the Sabres’ Tyler Ennis. Then, at the other end, Miller dove across an empty net with his stick to stop a try by Richards, who semi-fanned on his shot.