Philadelphia Evens Series
Friday, 04.28.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
"They played a pretty good game," said Lindy Ruff. "Our speed loosened things up, but some of our turnovers allowed them to utilize their speed."
"They got some bounces and made the plays when they needed to," said Mike Grier. "We had plenty of chances in the first and second periods to give ourselves a big lead and hopefully we can learn from this."
During the regular season, Buffalo posted a record of 29-0-1 when leading by two or more goals. Unfortunately, that trend has not continued into the playoffs as the Sabres have now allowed the Flyers to come back from a two-goal deficit in two out of the last three games. Buffalo won the first game of the series 3-2 in double overtime after relinquishing a multi-goal lead but lost Friday night.
"Hopefully, it's something that we can address and make sure that after we get those leads early, we can focus and play better defensively," said Grier.
The focus of the series now shifts from winning four of seven games to two out of three. In a series where the home team has won every game, two of the remaining three games - Five and Seven - will be played in Buffalo. Game Five is scheduled for Sunday at 2:00 PM in HSBC Arena.
"You can't fault the effort tonight," said Ruff. "Being a man down up front (after Jochen Hecht's injury) and Rory Fitzpatrick stepping in, I thought we had a really good effort. You just can't miss great scoring opportunities in a game like this."
"That's the way the playoffs go," said Grier. "You're going to have to withstand some runs and they had the momentum going in the second. Overall, I think we withstood their rush."
The Sabres had plenty of quality chances to take the lead in the second period after Peter Forsberg tied the game four minutes in. But missed opportunities haunted the team in the later stages of the game as Mike Grier and Chris Drury missed on a pair of breakaways, Derek Roy shot wide on a penalty shot and Maxim Afinogenov's blast from the slot clanged off the cross bar.
"If you want to look at flat-out, great opportunities to put them away, we had a great number of those and we didn't," said Lindy Ruff.
"We worked hard to get in those situations, we just didn't convert them."
At 12:41 of the middle period, Joni Pitkanen hooked Roy to the ice on a shorthanded breakaway, warranting a penalty shot with the score tied 2-2. In the one-on-one with Robert Esche, Roy pulled the puck to his backhand but fired wide left.
"(Roy) helped us in a game at Carolina with the same type of move," Ruff said. "It was a great move and he scored."
Petr Nedved and Daniel Briere - who finished the game with a pair of goals - traded scores in the opening ten minutes of the third before RJ Umberger's slapshot from the left wing trickled through Ryan Miller's guard and into the net, giving the Flyers the 4-3 edge. Miller tried to trap the blast to eliminate a rebound and second chance opportunity, but the puck squirted between his glove and chest.
"They just kept playing hockey and it's unfortunate that the game came down to a goal like that," said Miller, who finished with 28 saves. "The guys should recognize that they played a great game. We'll just have to come back and not let this series be defined by that situation."
For the fourth time in the series, Buffalo scored the first goal of the game. Floating into the slot from the left wing, Thomas Vanek redirected Rory Fitzpatrick's wristshot from the right point over Esche's right pad for his first career playoff goal on the power play at 2:34 of the first.
Briere gave Buffalo a two-goal lead with some assistance from Eric Dejardins. Coming out of the penalty box, Briere received a pass from Henrik Tallinder at center ice that sprung him on a breakaway. Esche made the initial save on the center's wristshot with his left pad, but was pushed into the net - along with the puck - by Desjardins, who lost his edge and collided with the netminder.
Desjardins redeemed himself two minutes later with a slapshot from the point that found its way through traffic and past Miller for his first goal of the post-season at 12:13. Miller was screened by four players in front and never saw the offering.
Philadelphia scored the lone goal of the second after Joni Pitkanen's centering pass deflected off a body in front and kicked to the high slot where Forsberg one-timed the loose puck - like a killer spike in volleyball - top shelf for his third goal of the post-season.
With a four-on-three advantage and four forwards on the ice for Buffalo, Briere chipped Drury's rebound over Esche's blocker to tie the game 3-3 at 6:17.
RJ Umberger scores his first career playoff goal after firing a wristshot from the right face-off circle at 9:51, while Forsberg added an empty net goal with 49 seconds remaining in regulation to make the score 5-3.
Grier scored his first of the post-season with a backhander on another shorthanded breakaway at 19:41.
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Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.