2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 6 - Philadelphia 5, Buffalo 4 (OT) – Series tied, 3-3
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Philadelphia Flyers won a must-have game to force a game seven in a playoff series.
Despite awful goaltending, the Flyers – the Rasputin of the NHL – forced a win-or-go-home Game 7 in the City of Brotherly Love. The team that was never knocked out of the Eastern Conference playoffs last year despite playing four elimination games has overcome yet another deathmatch this spring. Moreover, it has done so while juggling multiple goalies and riding a rollercoaster with minimal concern for its safety.
Goalie Brian Boucher got his second chance in this series. Defensemen Chris Pronger's presence provided an inspirational boost to the Broad Street Bullies. Thanks to Ville Leino, the Flyers ultimately made a brass-balls comeback stick against the Buffalo Sabres. One elimination game down, one to go, for the team that just can’t be killed.
On the brink of seeing their season end, the Flyers endured the latest in a string of goalie shuffles. Boucher came up with 24 big saves in another relief effort that’s been seen before on the Philadelphia bench. However, it wouldn’t have been talked about had it not been for Leino, who came up huge in the Flyers’ win over Montreal in the 2010 East finals. The Finnish role player capped Philadelphia's two-goal comeback on Sunday afternoon by scoring 4:43 into overtime at HSBC Arena. The clutch goal forced Game 7 in the first-round playoff series and perpetuated the Flyers’ never-say-die aura.
Buffalo got off to a hot start and had the look of a team that was going to register a successful kill. The Sabres got the jump on the second seed thanks to an off night from Flyers starting netminder Michael Leighton. All three of the Sabres’ first-period goals were scored against Leighton, who was then pulled from the contest. Rob Niedermayer scored just 2:13 minutes into the game to give the home team an early lead. Thomas Vanek added a power play goal at the 8:41 mark of the first period. The Flyers answered with a goal of their own at the 14:53 mark when Danny Briere beat Ryan Miller. However, Vanek added his second power play goal at 19:27 to give Buffalo a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes of hockey.
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Yet, just when they were sinking, the Flyers – staring at an early golf season – scored two unanswered in the second period. James van Riemsdyk scored by 49 seconds into the period while Danny Briere scored his second goal on the man advantage at the 8:43 mark to tie the game at 3-all.
Buffalo then retook the lead when Nathan Gerbe scored at the 16:09 to give Buffalo a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes. Yet, the Flyers – who erased a 3-0 deficit in Game 5 before losing in overtime – once again put on their comeback skates and did what they’ve done so well in recent playoff seasons.
The lone goal of the third period was scored by the Broad Street Bullies when Scott Hartnell scored at 10:43 mark, and sending the game into overtime. The two teams committed noticeable defensive lapses and allowed point-blank shots within 20 feet of the goal mouth, but neither side could shoot accurately. A few other passes on odd-man rushes, particularly from the Philadelphia side, were just off the mark in the final six minutes of play. The balance of power was precarious, just as it’s been throughout the series.
In overtime, the Flyers – doing what they failed to do in Game 5 on home ice – drove home a dagger in extra time. That’s when Leino scored and sent the series back to Philadelphia for a winner-take-all affair on Tuesday night.
It’s just how the Flyers would want it. Advantage, Philadelphia.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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