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Flyers edge Sabres to even series

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers' home power plays are sponsored by PECO, a local energy company. But for most of the first two games in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Buffalo Sabres, it looked like someone had unplugged Philadelphia’s man-advantage unit.

Happily for the Flyers, their power play found some power at just the right time to help Philadelphia draw even in the series. Ville Leino scored the go-ahead goal on the Flyers' seventh power play of the game, and Philadelphia held off the Sabres 5-4 in Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.

Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist, and Daniel Carcillo, James van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere also scored for Philadelphia. Brian Boucher stopped 20 shots in relief of starter Sergei Bobrovsky for the win.

Thomas Vanek had a pair of power-play goals for the Sabres, and Andrej Sekera and Cody McCormick also scored. Ryan Miller allowed five goals on 34 shots.

The series now shifts to Buffalo for Game 3 on Monday (7 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN) and Game 4 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN2). Game 5 will be back in Philadelphia on Friday night.

The game was tied 3-3 midway through the second period when the Sabres' Steve Montador was sent off for tripping. On the ensuing power play, Leino controlled the puck on the left side and fired a shot from the circle that hit Miller’s stick but ran up the handle and went under his blocker at 13:36.

"Once again we did a lot of good things on the power play, putting pucks on the net, doing what we wanted to do," said Briere, whose goal at 15:27 made it 5-3 and turned out to be the winner. "Miller made some key saves. Finally we were able to get one by him. At the end of the night it’s the goal that makes the difference."

The Flyers went just 1-for-10 on Saturday and now are 1-for-15 in the series. That includes 0-for-3 on 5-on-3 chances, of which they had two on Saturday.

"Obviously until you score it's kind of tough when you're just hitting your head on the wall," Leino said.

Despite the power-play’s struggles, coach Peter Laviolette said he's happy with everything but the results.

"Certainly we want to see the results," he said. "We hit a couple posts tonight. Through two games … we've fired 25 shots on net on the power play, so we're getting rips at it, we're getting looks, certainly not what we're looking for as an end-result. There were lots of opportunities and things we can do better in regard to breakout, to entry, to possession and recovery, screen and tips -- there's lots of things we can do better."

The Sabres were happy to see their penalty-killers have an outstanding level of success, but understand what can happen if they give the Flyers too many opportunities.

"When you give a team that many opportunities at it, that many cracks at it, eventually they will probably make you pay," forward Jason Pominville said.
Leino believes his goal could be the crack in the dam that allows the power play to burst through.

"It's going to open up some chances now and I think we're going to be more loose on the power play," he said.

Leino's goal also appeared to loosen Miller at even strength -- just 1:51 later, Briere made it a two-goal game when he stuck out his left skate to redirect Scott Hartnell's shot from the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo past Miller at 15:27.

The Sabres pulled within a goal 6:12 into the third period when McCormick tipped a Rob Niedermayer backhand pass through the crease behind Boucher. However, that was as close as the Sabres were able to get as Boucher slammed the door. 

“(Boucher) is a veteran goaltender in a situation where they had come back and taken the lead, you get somebody in there that has some calmness to him, and a presence about him, handles the puck better, maybe takes some of the pressure off our defensemen," Laviolette said. "I thought he came off the bench and was terrific."

Boucher relieved Sergei Bobrovsky 12:30 into the first period after Andrej Sekera scored off a 3-on-1 rush to put the Sabres ahead 3-2.

Right away he had to face tough shots by Tim Connolly and Tyler Ennis, but he stopped them, and almost everything else over the final 48 minutes.

"It takes a special kind of person to come in while we're down 3-2, in front of 20,000 fans, during a big game," Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "I'm not going to say a must-win, but it was a big game. He kind of settled things down for us and I think that was one of the reasons why we played with a little more composure maybe in the last 45 or 50 minutes. He was big in the net and he made some good saves. He did a real good job in there."

Game 2 had just as much action as Buffalo’s 1-0 win in Game 1 on Thursday – but a lot more scoring.

Giroux gave the Flyers the lead just 4 minutes into the game when he split a pair of Sabres and beat Miller over his glove hand, but the lead didn't last long as Vanek scored his first off a broken play that started with Pominville breaking his stick on a shot. The puck dribbled right to teammate Marc-Andre Gragnani, and when Bobrovsky over-committed, he found Vanek open in front for a power-play goal at 6:43.

Philadelphia took the lead again 37 seconds later when Carcillo banged in the rebound of a Kris Versteeg shot for his first goal since Feb. 20, but hard work down low by Vanek allowed him to tie the game at 9:43 with Buffalo’s second power-play goal.

Sekera put the Sabres ahead and ended Bobrovsky's night, but Boucher was up for the challenge the rest of the way. Van Riemsdyk got the Flyers even 44 seconds later.

"It helps to have experience and to have been in situations before," said the 34-year-old goaltender. "As a goaltender, whether you're starting or not starting, I think it's important to prepare either way, and if you're not starting, you prepare as if you are going to play and if you don't, then you don't. If you do, then you're ready to go. Some nights it doesn't work out. Some nights you go in there you don't do that well or it doesn't change the tide at all, but tonight it worked, which is good for us."
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