Thursday, April 14, 2011

Miller's 35 saves, Kaleta goal get Sabres past Flyers in Game 1

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

If the Flyers can take away anything from Thursday night's 2011 playoff opener, it's that they don't need to do much more in order to snag a win.

Problem was, they didn't do enough of what counts to start.

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller  notched his  second career postseason  shutout by  stopping  all  35 shots  he  faced  as Buffalo  topped Philadelphia, 1-0, in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Miller's  only other playoff whitewash came at the expense of Philly, on April 30, 2006 in Game 5 of an Eastern quarterfinal, a 3-0 decision.

Patrick  Kaleta's  third-period tally was enough for the Sabres, who finished with 96 points on the year.

"We have played forty of these games," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff on the readiness of his club after making a strong run late to lock up a playoff berth. "We have been playing this type of game for three months. It has been the one goal game, whether it is 2-1, or 3-2, or tied late in the period. We have been tested continually down the stretch."

Sergei  Bobrovsky acquitted  himself  well in  his  initial postseason  start, making  24  saves for the Flyers,  the Atlantic Division champions who had not been blanked beyond the regular season since Game 5 of the 2008 Eastern finals against Pittsburgh.

"It feels great but I would have loved to have won it," the 22-year-old Russian said. "It's only starting."

Buffalo's only score of the contest came as a result of what other opponents had done better than the Flyers in the second half of the season: win battles for the puck.

Just prior to the six-minute mark of the third period, Paul Gaustad won a battle along the right boards and dished back to the left point. Marc-Andre Gragnani's inital shot was kicked out by Bobrovsky, but Kaleta stood atop the crease to net the rebound.

"It was awesome. I wanted to go out there and be a positive contribution to the team and was fortunate enough to get a goal," said Kaleta, who missed more than a month late in the season with a knee injury.

The Flyers failed to convert on their fifth man advantage of the contest, coming with 8:57 left in regulation, after Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers was sent off for tripping Ville Leino on a rush.

Bobrovsky was called to the bench for an extra attacker with 1:23 remaining, but Buffalo checked away the remaining time perfectly -- taking several unsuccessful chances to the open net as the home team desperately tried to mount a charge.

The absence of defenseman Chris Pronger, still unable to play due to a right-hand injury since early March, didn't affect Philadelphia's ability to rein in their foes.

A scoreless first period saw each goaltender make 10 saves, but Miller needed to have his head on a swivel during a late-period Flyers advantage that featured multiple quality chances.

James van Riemsdyk had the best chance to score early on, hitting the post from the right wing just over five minutes in.

Buffalo then survived a 38-second two-man disadvantage midway through the second despite more heavy pressure from the home team.

"It's frustrating obviously. A loss is not easy and you kind of wonder where you went wrong and what you could have done," said Flyers captain Mike Richards. "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 tonight I missed some tips. Pucks were just missing the net and we have to find that."

Notes: This is the ninth meeting between the clubs in the postseason...Philadelphia won in 1975, 1978, 1995, 1997 and 2000, while Buffalo was victorious in 1998, 2001 and the last matchup in 2006...Flyers forward Nikolay Zherdev was listed as a healthy scratch...Buffalo welcomed back veteran forward Mike Grier, out
since March 26 with a knee injury...Philly's last 1-0 playoff game came on May 1, 2003, a win over Ottawa in Game 2 of an East semifinal...Buffalo's last 1-0 game was a loss to Ottawa on May 14, 2007 in Game 3 of the East finals...The Flyers hadn't suffered a postseason home shutout since Patrick Lalime of the
Senators took a 3-0 decision on April 20, 2002 in Game 2 of the Eastern quarters.

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