Game 1 of Buffalo and Philadelphia in the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals was pretty tedious. In fact, it got downright boring at times.
Game 2 was neither. It began as exhilarating, and, at least for Sabres fans, eventually degenerated into something infuriating.
The first period took over 51 minutes to complete between a bevy of scrums, ten minor penalties and a fight between both teams, and a three goals apiece.
Philadelphia’s trio in the first period started early. Just four minutes into the game, Claude Giroux weaved his way through three Sabres and fired a wrist shot above Ryan Miller’s shoulder. Daniel Carcillo recorded his first of the playoffs by punching in a rebound after a scramble in front of the Buffalo net. James van Reimsdyk capitalized on a turnover in the Buffalo zone to give Philly three.
Thomas Vanek scored two of Buffalo’s own trio in the opening session. The first was on the Power Play in a situation much similar to Kaleta’s goal from the previous game, with Vanek batting a rebound past Sergei Bobrovsky after the Flyer’s goaltender fumbled with the puck.
Vanek’s next goal also came on the power play, where continued pressure by the Sabres got the better of Bobrovsky as he desperately tried to cover up the puck. Less than three minutes later, Buffalo took their first and only lead on the game when Andrej Sekera threw the puck over Bobrovksy after a 3-on-1 rush into the Flyer’s zone.
Bobrovsky was then pulled from the net after letting in three goals on only seven Buffalo shots. Brian Boucher came in to relieve him, and it appeared to be the jolt that the Flyers needed.
That the Sabres took an embarrassing eight minor penalties in the second period also helped. By spending more than half of the period on the penalty kill, several Sabres forwards such as Vanek and Drew Stafford barely even saw the ice, while Buffalo’s special teams units were worn down by repeated efforts.
Amazingly, Philadelphia only scored once while on the power play the entire game- off a beautiful shot by Ville Leino while he glided across in front of the Buffalo net. Daniel Briere soon put his team up by two when the puck bounced off his skate and past Miller as he camped in front of the Sabres goaltender.
Buffalo would climb to within one at 6:12 of the third period when Cody McCormick scored his first career playoff goal by way of a backhand only five feet from the Flyers net.
But the ten short-handed situations that Buffalo found themselves in over the course of the game proved to be their demise. They could never beat Boucher for a second time to tie the game up, and when the clock ran down, the Wells Fargo Center erupted as Philadelphia evened the series up at 1-1.