Flyers take series lead in 4-2 road win

By JAY BOEHMER
Senior Hockey Insider — jboehmer@highhopesblog.com
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Jeff Carter celebrates his first period power play goal in the Flyers

With Sergei Bobrovsky scratched and Brian Boucher making the start, the Flyers as a team needed to prove that this was the right decision. They struggled, but held off a determined Sabres squad to come away with a 4-2 win.

In the first period, Boucher put to rest any doubts that he could be a playoff starter.

As the team in front of him failed to stay on their feet following a few good minutes and an early one goal lead, the Flyers found themselves outshot 16-6 in the first – Buffalo put 30 shots towards the net while the Flyers managed only 11.

Boucher stopped 15 of those shots, giving up only one goal on a Sabres power play. The Flyers ended the period on a four minute penalty kill after Scott Hartnell received a double minor.

In the second, the Flyers turned their play around. Having survived a first period onslaught without falling behind, they were in position to counter and take a substantial lead.

They did just that thanks to two goals off the sticks of Danny Briere and Nikolay Zherdev – inserted into the lineup to replace an injured Andreas Nodl.

Unfortunately, in the final minutes of the frame, Buffalo retook some of the momentum and capitalized with a goal by Nathan Gerbe.

In the third period, the Flyers simply held off Buffalo, who pushed back, drew penalties, and came close on a number of chances.

But time and time again, Brian Boucher and the Flyers’ defense held them off.

Eventually, Kimmo Timonen put the game away with an empty net goal.

Historically, this win was a huge one for the Flyers.

All-time, they have only lost three of 21 series that they’ve led 2-1. Also, they have never lost a series to the Sabres that they have led at any point.

Furthermore, they’ve proven that they can beat Ryan Miller – who hasn’t looked nearly as intimidating as he did in Game 1.

With the skilled, dangerous hands of Nikolay Zherdev in the lineup, they will continue to put pucks behind Miller while, at the other end of the ice, Brian Boucher maintains a calm, veteran presence and keeps out the majority of pucks.

The Flyers should win this series even without Chris Pronger, but when he eventually returns – be it in Game 4 or 5 – he will be the ace in the hole that tips this series in the Flyers’ favor for good.

Their only weakness right now is the vulnerability of defenseman Sean O’Donnell, who is looking slower and less skilled than his younger counterpart Danny Syvret. Which one leaves when Pronger returns is up in the air, but either way, bringing Pronger back is nothing but an upgrade.

With a possible two games in Buffalo and two in Philadelphia, the Flyers have retaken home ice advantage in the series.

Though they don’t want to think about that hypothetical Game 7 in Philadelphia. The Flyers want to – and can – end this series by Game 5. Another stolen road game and a clinching win on home ice. Doesn’t sound too bad.

Follow Jay Boehmer on Twitter!

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