Miller, Sabres blank Flyers in Game 1
Ryan Miller stopped 35 shots for his second career postseason shutout and Patrick Kaleta scored to lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoff series Thursday night.
Miller stopped every shot under all types of pressure and carried the Sabres to the clutch opening win. The teams have met eight times in the postseason and the Game 1 winner won the series each time.
Kaleta snapped the scoreless tie early in the third period when he powered a rebound past rookie Sergei Bobrovsky.
No team was more resilient in last year's playoffs than the Flyers. They trailed Boston 3-0 in the East semifinals before taking the series and playing until a Game 6 loss to Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals.
Game 2 is Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Sabres — 10 points out of a playoffs spot on Jan. 17 — cracked the scoreless tie 5:56 into the third period on Kaleta's second career postseason goal.
Buffalo won a fight for the puck along the boards and dumped it across the ice to Marc-Andre Gragnani. He fired a slapper from the top of the circle and Kaleta knocked in the rebound from the low slot for the 1-0 lead.
Kaleta was healthy enough to play at a perfect time after missing most of the last month of the season with a bruised knee.
Miller was flawless from there and the Sabres — the hottest team in the Eastern Conference since Jan. 1 — are in control.
Once a rowdy and devastating home-ice advantage, Philadelphia continues to struggle at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers dropped six straight games at home before snapping that streak in the season finale. They now have a Game 1 loss after dropping Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals here last season.
Miller was the reason for their latest loss.
The Flyers attacked the net with a barrage of shots that went nowhere except straight into Miller. The former MVP of the Olympics stopped Kimmo Timonen on a slapper midway through the second period when the Flyers held a 5-on-3 edge
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called timeout when the Flyers had 34 seconds of a two-man power play.
They came up empty on a power play that has cost them down the stretch. The Sabres stuffed the crease and the puck had no chance of finding the back of the net. With the aid of the stout defense, Miller stopped 16 shots in the second period.
The Sabres got rough to protect their net, with defenseman Chris Butler shoving James van Riemsdyk flat on his back.
The Flyers could have used some extra protection on the blue line but they played without Chris Pronger.
Pronger, a former NHL MVP, has been sidelined since having hand surgery in March. He also missed time with a foot injury and was limited to just 50 games this season.
He skated and held a stick during practice this week, but he wasn't ready for Game 1. He remains day to day. Pronger has said he's very confident he'll play against the Sabres.
Bobrovsky made the routine saves and covered some tough ones that had to help calm some playoff debut jitters for the Russian rookie.
The Flyers came oh-so close 6 minutes into the game when van Riemsdyk pounded the puck off the post. Miller later stuffed Flyers captain Mike Richards on a backhand attempt and it was already clear that Game 1 would belong to the goalies.
Both teams had playoff energy to burn. There were a series of scrums and punishing hits that signal playoff hockey — especially in Philadelphia.
Fans dressed in matching orange shirts and erupted when Lauren Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang ''God Bless America,'' alternating lyrics with Kate Smith, who was on a video image. Smith's rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since the mid 1970s.
Notes: The Flyers had home ice in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2004. ... Buffalo finished the regular season with only one regulation loss in the last 13 games, and went 16-4-4 after Terry Pegula purchased the team in late February.