-- The energy was there, their goalie was good and the Philadelphia Flyers
certainly had the support of their rabid fans during Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Buffalo Sabres
on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
The difference, as is usually the case this time of year, was special teams and goaltending.
The Flyers, who finished the regular season an uncharacteristic 19th in the League at 16.6 percent efficiency on the power play, just couldn't resolve that season-long problem with the man advantage against the surging Sabres -- and it cost them.
Despite generating 11 shots during five power-play chances, including one quality slap shot by Kimmo Timonen
in a 38-second, 5-on-3 advantage midway through the second period, the Flyers couldn't solve goalie Ryan Miller
. The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner made 16 of his 35 saves in the second period en route to a 1-0 triumph and his second career playoff shutout.
The inability to capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage rankled the Flyers.
"Any time you get the opportunity on a 5-on-3, it's a chance you need to score on and it's one of those things where it's a momentum killer," Flyers defenseman Matt Carle
said. "At the same time, the other team picks up momentum as well if they kill that off. That was a big turning point, but at the same time, we got chances after that and the game was still in grasp at that point."
The Flyers’ 11 power-play shots represented the second-highest total in one game this season; they had 14 against the Washington Capitals
in a 5-4 shootout victory on Nov. 20 – but those came during nine power-play opportunities.
"Every time you get a 5-on-3, there's a chance to score, and we had some chances there," Timonen said. "Obviously, we'll have to talk about the power-play (Friday). Maybe we'll do something else because it seems like we really didn't create too many chances at the end when the game was on the line. We have some work to do on that."
While Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
felt not taking advantage of the two-man edge wasn't a turning point in the game, he conceded it's an area his club needs to improve.
"It was an opportunity that we couldn't get done and I don't know if it was a turning point, but we're pushing in the offensive zone and were pushing after that but couldn't get it past him," Laviolette said. "It was a tight-checking game for sure. There were a lot of shots blocked and, defensively for us, that was the lowest amount of scoring chances we've given up since I've been here.
"There's lots of things that happened that were good (on the power-play)," he continued. "We had lots of attempts, lots of shots, lots of attacks, but like the rest of the game, it didn't find the back of the net."
The Flyers’ power play actually utilized one man at the point in a triangular look and it produced a number of good chances, but Buffalo's defense was usually there to snuff out second and third opportunities after Miller made the initial save.
"We did good (on the power play), created energy and moved the puck around … took some good shots but had nothing to show for it and that's disappointing," Flyers forward Danny Briere
said. "It's just one game though. We didn't expect to beat them in four games. We have to be better at finding rebounds. Their defense did a good job clearing the net, but that's an area where we have to be better, a little more competitive.
"On the 5-on-3, Miller made some good saves. We took a few shots and we did what we wanted to do, but sometimes it hits a stick and goes in and this time it didn't."
The Flyers directed 74 shots towards the Buffalo net (35 on goal, 16 that were blocked, and 23 that missed the net) compared with 36 by Buffalo (25 on goal, 4 blocked and 7 that missed). Philadelphia also recorded 40 hits, equaling their regular-season high set at Dallas on March 19.
"You need to win four games to win a series, and these games are going to happen," defenseman Sean O'Donnell
said. "Give them credit. They played a really good road game and they got their split and now we'll try to take the next one. We just have to get a little more traffic and keep getting shots on Miller. Eventually, one is going to go in. He made some good saves, but I can't find too much fault with the way we played."
During Philadelphia's 3-4-4 stretch to close out the regular season, the Flyers were 5-for-34 with the man advantage.
"A loss is not easy and you kind of wonder where you went wrong and what you could have done," Flyers captain Mike Richards
said. "But we created a lot, we didn't give up much, and we were pretty tight defensively. We just have to find those pucks. I think four or five times, I missed some tips. Pucks were just missing the net and we have to find that."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale