In the first period, a lapse in defense – Jeff Carter and Nikolay Zherdev began leaving the zone as the Sabres pushed the puck deep – led to a goal by Jason Pominville.
Through the next two periods, the Flyers found the chances hard to come by, and those they did manage were kept out by Ryan Miller.
In the dying minutes, the Flyers made a final push, but once again, Miller had the answer.
He’s the one factor that the Sabres really have going for them.
Their world class, Vezina-winning netminder doesn’t just give them a chance to win the way the Flyers’ goaltenders do – he steals games all on his own.
In the Sabres’ two wins, Miller has been stellar. In their two losses, he’s looked like any other goalie around. Two shutouts, and two games with a combined eight goals against.
When he’s on, they win. When he’s average, they simply aren’t good enough.
Miller’s pair of shutouts marks only the third time in almost 40 years (since 1973, before they even won their first Cup) that the Flyers have been shutout more than once in a playoff series.
If the Flyers can’t find a way to control Miller, this series – which now sits tied at two games apiece – could get scary.
The longer the Sabres hang around and keep it close, the more worrisome Miller’s presence becomes. In a long enough series, the Flyers should come out on top as the better team – they have more offensive and defensive depth, by and large.
But now, with what is essentially a three game series, one more “stolen game” could be all the difference.
The Flyers continue to wait for the return of Chris Pronger, who could certainly tip the scales in the Flyers’ favor. But Pronger still doesn’t appear game ready. Chances are they’ll have to do it without him, or perhaps he won’t show until the series is truly in jeopardy.
For now, they fight on, with the continued stellar play of James van Riemsdyk leading the way.
If they finally find a way to crack Miller for good, this series will come easy to the Flyers. But as it stands, they’re just one game or two away from watching Ryan Miller single-handedly take the first round.
Going back to Philadelphia for Game 6, the Flyers hope to get the jump on Buffalo in this brand new best-of-three series.