Sabres shut out Flyers in Game 1

Posted: April 14, 2011

Earlier in the week, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called the playoffs "a breath of fresh air."

Perhaps, but it's not for the team that has to face Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.

Thursday night, in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the surging Sabres, Miller led the way as Buffalo stunned the Flyers, 1-0, at the Wells Fargo Center.

Miller made 35 saves as he notched his second shutout in 41 career playoff games.

Right winger Patrick Kaleta, known more for his scrappiness than his goals, scored on a juicy rebound with 14 minutes, 4 seconds left to snap a scoreless tie. Kaleta followed up a point drive by defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

The Flyers, who came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup last June, will try to even the series when the teams meet Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers were minus defensive leader Chris Pronger, who is recovering from a broken hand. Pronger's return may be intensified by Thursday's loss.

"He's obviously their anchor," Kaleta said before the game, "but we're more worried about what we have to do and not them."

Kaleta, a healthy scratch for most of the last five weeks, had just four goals in 51 regular-season games, and hadn't scored since Dec. 27.

The Flyers' power play has been inconsistent all season, and it was 0 for 5 Thursday, including a man advantage in the final nine minutes in which the hosts had no shots.

When they did apply pressure with a man advantage, Miller was, well, the man.

The sometimes-spectacular goalie who helped lead the United States to a silver medal in last year's Olympics was the reason the game was scoreless after two periods.

Miller made 26 saves over the first two periods, including eight as the Flyers had a five-on-four power play that later turned into a five-on-three for 38 seconds.

During one sequence late in the second period, Miller stopped Jeff Carter's one-timer and his deflection of a slick pass from James van Riemsdyk.

Down the other end, Sergei Bobrovsky didn't have as many big saves to make, but he was sharp. The Russian rookie made 19 stops in the first 40 minutes, including a nice glove save on Nathan Gerbe's left-circle drive early in the second period.

Despite missing injured defensive leader Chris Pronger, the Flyers kept most of Buffalo's shots from a distance in the first two periods.

Forget the two months of mediocrity that ended their regular season, the Flyers said all week. They were guilty of being too content with their spot in the standings and were looking ahead to the playoffs.

Well, the Unfinished Business Tour finally resumed Thursday and the Flyers played a strong first period.

But so did the Eastern Conference's hottest team, the Sabres.

The first period finished scoreless, with the Flyers having the better chances. Both teams had 10 shots, and Miller made perhaps the best early save when he stopped defenseman Danny Syvret in front with 2:10 to go in the period.

A little over five minutes into the opening period, van Riemsdyk, arguably the Flyers' best player in the first 20 minutes, beat Miller but had his shot carom off the right post.

"The second time around, I know more of what to expect," said van Riemsdyk, who has blossomed in his second season.

The Flyers outhit Buffalo in the opening period, 19-12, with diminutive Danny Briere leading the way with four hits against his former team. Through two periods, the Flyers had a 31-26 edge in hits, led by Andreas Nodl with five.

After Lauren Hart, joined by a recording of the late Kate Smith, performed "God Bless America," the Wells Fargo Center was alive with noise at the game's start.

"There's good energy here, and we have to keep feeding off it," winger Kris Versteeg said after the first period.

Like most teams, the Flyers are dominating when they win the first game of a playoff series - 22-8 in the franchise's history. They are 14-20 in series after losing Game 1.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said he was happy to start the season on the road because it took the pressure off his team. In Ruff's colorful Buffalo tenure, the Sabres entered the night 8-2 when they played Game 1 on the road.

After the morning skate, Miller said he understood why Ruff made the statement.

"You take a little heat off and shift some of it on the Flyers, who are [higher] seeded and the defending Eastern Conference champions," he said, candidly. "Those guys are expected to win the series."

Not if they can't get the puck behind Miller.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull

 

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