Dec 7, 2011, 11:39 PM EDT
In their first meeting with the Buffalo Sabres this season, the Flyers got to Ryan Miller early and often, sending the netminder to the bench in favor of Jhonas Enroth. Enroth slammed the door, and the Sabres nearly came back from being down 3-0, losing 3-2. Wednesday night in Buffalo was basically the opposite, aside from the fact that the Flyers still won.
The Sabres owned the early stages of the first period, and Miller looked dialed in and ready to give shooters fits all night. At the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov was shaky on a few shots, and the Sabres netted three unanswered in the first period. The Flyers probably saved Bryz’s night with a Max Talbot goal in the waning seconds of the frame, and Peter Laviolette stuck with his #1.
After that, the Flyers owned most of the rest of the game, scoring three more to go up 4-3 in the second period. The Sabres tied it late in the third though, and seemed to have the momentum in overtime before Claude Giroux struck with the winner.
Below, a look at the goals and highlights, with links to video of Ville Leino headhunting and a pair of Flyer Fights.
Giroux had a superstar All-Star shining star star of the game night. He assisted on three second period goals as his line dominated with pressure in all three zones, then took over the NHL scoring lead with his overtime winner. G passed Phil Kessel for the moment with his 36th point.
As much as huge momentum swings, turnovers were the defining element of this game for both sides. There was some sloppiness for sure, but to pin it entirely on the team turning the puck over would be to neglect some very nice work by both defenses to cause them.
Sabres Gash Flyers for Three in a Row
Braydon Coburn’s TO on the first goal of the game wasn’t one of them though. That was pretty much all on him. On their second kill of the night, Coburn paused a moment too long as he looked for a breakout pass, perhaps forgetting that there were two Sabres between him and his own net. One of the two, Luke Adam, picked his pocket and started a pretty nice tic-tac-toe play that saw him feed Zack Kassian, who put a soft drop back to Ville Leino. Yes, the game opened with the former Flyer finding the back of the net for just the third time all season.
On the previous kill, the Flyers nearly scored after taking advantage of a great shorthanded counter attack. Looked like Coburn was hoping to spring another. The downside of having a dangerous kill…
The Sabres would score a pair of goals within the last 1:05 of the first period, both of which Bryzgalov probably wishes he can have back. The Sabres’ second goal was a blistering shot by Kassian past Marc-Andre Bourdon, who probably screened it for a second. The third appeared to be deflected, but Bryz still appeared to have it before it fell in behind him. It came on a Sabres power play after a fairly dumb Andrej Meszaros penalty (easy for me to say, not always as easy as it looks to hit a man in motion before he’s past you).
Neither goal was terrible, but it began to look like we might see Bob for the second period.
Flyers Find Twine, Life
But despite seeing two goals in the last 65 seconds of the period, we hadn’t seen them all yet. Max Talbot scored with 1.5 on the clock, and even THAT wasn’t the last of the first period action. Perhaps in an effort to wrest momentum control back to the Sabres before heading into the locker room, Corey Tropp tangled with Zac Rinaldo, and beat him pretty soundly.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, the fight didn’t have the desired effect.
The Flyers, perhaps further inspired by birthday boy (47!) Peter Laviolette’s intermission speech, came out swarming in the second. The G Line in particular was just nasty, but they weren’t alone despite owning the scoring.
Miller was once again run into, only this time it wasn’t by an opponent. Amidst pressure by Wayne Simmonds, defenseman Brayden McNabb crashed into Miller, stripping him of his mask (which we’re pretty sure is spring-loaded). Scott Hartnell tried to fire home the loose puck, but ended up catching Miller in the face with it. Miller was shaken up and bloodied, and the Flyers would take advantage for the rest of the period.
Marc-Andre Bourdon and War
Bourdon nearly cost them another man-advantage opportunity when he boarded Nathan Gerbe, drawing an easy call. However, Gerbe’s teammate Matt Ellis quickly came to his defense, goading Bourdon into a fight. A damn good one at that. Noble as it was, and we’d have had our guy do the same thing were the jerseys reversed on the hit, Ellis was assessed an instigator penalty, negating Bourdon’s minor. [View Fight Videos Here]
G Liners Take Over
A moment later, the Flyers scored their second goal, bringing them within a goal on a deflected shot. Kimmo Timonen put a knuckler on net, and rookie stud horse Matt Read deflected it past Miller, who was again pressured by Simmonds in the paint.
The Flyers kept the pressure up throughout the period, and Scott Hartnell tied the game with five minutes left in the frame. The goal came after Giroux stripped Tyler Ennis of the puck along the boards, then sent it over to Hartnell, who fired a shot off of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff’s skate and past Miller.
Three minutes later, the line struck again to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead. They were active on the back-check, forced a turnover, and G and Hartnell fought hard for the puck in the neutral zone. Harts got the puck to Giroux, who found Jaromir Jagr before the Czech could leave the ice for a line change. Jagr put a nice move on, then ripped a wrist shot high on Miller to make it 4-3 good guys.
The Sabres continued to wilt after that, and the Flyers went into protect mode in the third period. It looked like they had it won, but Lindy Ruff pulled his goalie for the extra skater with about a minute and a half left. Buffalo went on the attack, and the Flyers didn’t match their pressure, standing flat-footed while Drew Stafford scored a back-breaker.
Fortunately, the Claude Giroux wasn’t done impregnating the net just yet. Once again, a turnover led directly to a great scoring opportunity, when Marc-Andre Gragnani let loose a terrible pass in the back end of the Flyers zone with none other than Giroux in the vicinity. Is there anythi
ng better than the sight of G skating down the ice with nothing between him and a goalie?
Tonight was the second time in the last three games that the Flyers have come back from being down 3-0 to win (the first was their 4-3 OT win over the Ducks last Friday in Anaheim).
Hartnell now has 12 goals to go with 11 assists in 26 games this season. Safe to say he’s enjoying his new line, perhaps even more than his old one.
Jagr’s 42 goals are the most any player has scored against the Buffalo Sabres.
Giroux has now scored a pair of overtime winner this season, as well as notching two different four-point games.
Danny Briere was apparently still affected by the virus Paul Holmgren mentioned earlier in the week. He played just 9:22 on the night.
In addition to his fight, Rinaldo uncorked a huge hit on Tyler Ennis in the first period. Joe Finley took exception to the hit, but the refs didn’t, sending only Finley off for his retribution.
Slump Busters? Leino netted just his third goal of the season and first since November 11th, and Stafford hadn’t tallied since November 4th.
Bourdon may hear from the league regarding his hit on Gerbe. Not sure if it’ll be a factor, but Gerbe is wearing a full shield after taking a skate to the face recently.
Also on Brendan Shanahan’s call sheet will likely be Leino, who head-hunted Read in the third period. Officially dead to us? Officially dead to us. [Video of the hit here]
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