Read received a quick pass in transition from wing Jake Voracek and had one man to beat: hulking defenseman Robyn Regehr. Banking the puck off the side board, the Flyers rookie turned on the jets, slipped past the Sabre, and cut hard to the net. Two head dekes and a backhand later, the Flyers were in front to stay.
"I just saw [Jakub Voracek] get the puck and he flinged it out of the zone,” said Read. “I saw a lot of ice open and I just went for it. There were a couple of lucky plays and I hit it out of the air and then the defenseman stepped up on me. I don't even know how I got by him. It was just a breakaway and I shot it and scored.”
It was a back breaking goal for Buffalo. The Sabres were one period away from keeping their playoff hopes alive, but their defeat combined with a Washington Capitals victory officially knocked them out of postseason contention.
Both the Flyers and Sabres entered Thursday night’s contest with differing goals. Philadelphia looked to keep pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Buffalo on the other hand was fighting for their playoff lives, locked in a pitched battle for the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference.
So in the end, neither team was able to achieve their goal, but for Philadelphia who could have packed in after seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins, their now-certain first round opponent, trounce the New York Rangers.
Both goaltenders had good performances but it’s noteworthy that Bryzgalov looked much better moving laterally in net, leading to big stops in the third period that preserved Philadelphia’s lead.
The opening ten minutes bore out a slow and sloppy pace as the few chances that did occur weren’t of the particularly dangerous variety, other than an off the rush chance on Miller by Wayne Simmonds at the edge of the crease that the Sabres’ goalie easily turned aside.
With three minutes remaining in the first period, a scrum in front of the Sabres net led to a Scott Hartnell penalty. Turned out to not be much of a threat, however Read had the best scoring opportunity by breaking in shorthanded but Miller turned it aside with a great poke check.
The Sabres seemed to playing a bit of cat and mouse, using a 2-1-2 forecheck that limited the Flyers chances to spring load cross ice passes.
When the Flyers did get chances, such as forward Brayden Schenn’s point blank range shot that sailed high over the net, frustrations looked to be setting in quickly.
As the Flyers effort began to ebb for moments, Buffalo stepped up their attack following a pair of 3 on 1 and 2 on 1 opportunities, the later of which was led by former Flyers forward Ville Leino.
“I expected Buffalo was going to play like that because every game for them was so important,” Bryzgalov said. “It was a playoff race and we basically knew they would be very patient, like a silent killer, waiting to strike and use their chances.”
Buffalo would finally break the scoreless deadlock when defenseman Robyn Regehr fired a shot from the high left circle that rebounded out to Drew Stafford, who fired a high backhand shot that hit the left post behind Bryzgalov. A crashing Leino shoveled the loose puck into the open net.
"Yeah, they were fighting for a playoff [spot],” Read said. “It was kind of a defensive game at the beginning of it and we were trying to keep things simple out there and not make any mistakes to cause a goal. It was defensive and then in the third period it kind of opened up and was a more exciting and offensive game."
The goal noticeably caused the Flyers to quicken their pace as attempted a quick counterattack when winger Jake Voracek rushed in on an odd man break and found a streaking Sean Couturier in the slot.
Couturier’s shot rang loudly off the crossbar.
In the third period, the Flyers adjusted their attack strategy and began to use short direct passes to counteract the Sabres’ forecheck. That adjustment led to their hitting pay dirt in the third period.
Entering the Sabres zone, Giroux worked a puck out the right corner and found defenseman Andreas Lilja at the right point, who alertly found partner Marc-Andre Bourdon wide open creeping in slowly at the left point.
One quick pass and a blazing one timer later, the Flyers had tied the game.
From that point, the home side continued to press the advantage and benefitted from the more open play on the ice as the Sabres attempted to trade chances. One chance came close as Tyler Ennis got in tight and nearly put the puck past Bryzgalov, but he got his right pad on the shot before defenseman Kimmo Timonen cleared it.
But after Read’s goal, the Sabres had precious little left to give.
“I can't really digest right now,” Miller said. “It's just disappointing. It's embarrassing to miss the playoffs. We've got a lot of talented players, but we just couldn't get it going early enough. And then you run out of time and you run out of games, and it comes down to basically going to the bigger tear than any team in the league during the entire year just to make playoffs and that's not how you do it in this league. We got bit this year, and last year we got away with it.”
And one team’s season ends while another’s postseason is about to begin.
The Flyers conducted their season ending awards ceremony prior to Thursday night’s contest. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was presented with an NHL Milestone Award for 25 career shutouts, Wayne Simmonds winning Gene Hart Memorial Trophy (player w most heart), The Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award went to Jaromir Jagr, the Pelle Lindbergh Award for most improved player was Scott Hartnell, and center Claude Giroux wining the Bobby Clarke Award for Team MVP, along with the Toyota Cup for garnering the most three star selections of any Flyers player this season.
Be sure to tune into Blog Talk Radio Sunday nights from 9:30-10pm for the Off The Post Radio Show co- hosted by yours truly and Russ Cohen from Sportsology and XM/Sirius.
You can follow me on Twitter @AnthonyMingioni.
You can also contact me by email: email@example.com
photo by del Tufo.
©2000-2012 Sportsology. All Rights Reserved.