Flyers beat Sabres, take 2-1 lead in quarter-final matchup

Nikolay Zherdev’s first career playoff goal at 16:44 of the second period held up as the game winner to give the visiting Philadelphia Flyers a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist and Danny Briere also scored for Philadelphia, which now leads 2-1 in its best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final matchup. Kimmo Timonen added an empty-netter to finish the scoring.

Brian Boucher made 35 saves in his first start of the playoffs after replacing Sergei Bobrovsky midway through Game 2. Boucher stepped up big in a 15-save first period and a frantic third period where he stopped 11 shots.

Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe scored for Buffalo, Ryan Miller made 22 saves and defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani contributed two assists.

BOX SCORE

Kris Versteeg made a quick pass across the offensive zone to captain Mike Richards, who then sent the puck through the slot to a waiting Zherdev for an easy goal past a helpless Miller to make the score 3-1 in the middle frame.

Just two minutes later, Gerbe found a rebound and used the screen of Flyers defenceman Danny Syvret to go upstairs on Boucher and pull Buffalo within one, 3-2.

Halfway through the final period, Zherdev and Darroll Powe took penalties only 45 seconds apart to give the Sabres a two-man advantage for 1:15. With just over 20 seconds remaining in the first penalty, Tyler Ennis rattled a snap shot off the mask of Boucher.

The shot rattled a loose a strap on the Flyers netminder’s helmet and he knocked his mask off himself to alert referee Paul Devorski of the safety hazard. The 18,690 fans at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo were not pleased and it seemed to halt all the momentum Buffalo had built up through the advantage.

The Flyers got on the board early in the game. Buffalo native Patrick Kaleta took a penalty in a post-whistle scrum, giving the Flyers the power play. Carter attempted a dump in but it bounced off defenceman Mike Weber and directly back to Carter, who drove wide to the right and wristed a shot over the blocking arm of Miller at 4:42.

After a Brayden Coburn interference penalty, Stafford took a pass in the slot and roofed a wrist shot past a screened Boucher. The goal at 11:55 of the first period tied the game at 1-1.

Philadelphia took the lead back for good early in the second period. Immediately following a defensive zone face-off win, Scott Hartnell forced a turnover off defenceman Chris Butler. He then laid a pass into the slot to an uncovered Briere who deposited his second goal of the series past Miller.

The goal marked Briere’s 89th playoff point, and it came in his 89th playoff game. It was also his 21st point in 18 playoff game at HSBC Arena.

NOTES: Kaleta was injured in the first period on the Coburn interference penalty. He did not return … Gragnani has a point (four assists) in all three games of the series … Andres Sekera was scratched in favour of the returning Jordan Leopold, who missed the first two games with a broken left thumb … Boucher improved to 5-1 against Buffalo in his playoff career … Bobrovsky, after starting Games 1 and 2, wasn’t even dressed for the Game 3 … Bobrovsky allowed three goals on seven shots in Game 2 … Michael Leighton dressed as the backup goalie … The Flyers set a franchise record with 25 road wins this season, good for third best in the NHL.