Greetings again from high atop HSBC Arena as I've escaped the snow and expect to give you my nightly pearls of wisdom on Game Three of the Sabres-Flyers series. The folks here have been diligent to get their Internet service upgraded -- in hockey terms, they've been performing desperate IT work -- and we should be good to go, with no repeat of the trainwreck we endured Saturday in the Wells Fargo Center.
(Memo to the Flyers: Make a call across the street to the Phillies to see how your system should work. Was in the press box at Citizens Bank Park for five hours Friday night and never had a single issue).
OK, enough about me and our issues up here. This is all about hockey and it should be a wild one. The first postseason game under Terry Pegula. The Sabres haven't lost two in a row since Pegula took over and the Flyers haven't won two straight since Chris Pronger got hurt. Pronger isn't playing tonight so something is going to give in that regard.
Be sure to check our archive of tonight's live chat -- and remember to join us Wednesday night at 7 prior to the 7:30 faceoff for Game Five.
Enough talk. Game On.
Pregame video: Very nice job. Started with scenes from the '75 finals and continued through the Sabres-Flyers postseason matchups. Big cheers for Campbell-Umberger, for the Snow-Shields goalie and Barnaby-Snow fights. Big boos for Briere's double-OT goal in 2006.
Pregame video II: Lots of great highlights of the Pegula era, noting "16 wins to get in, 16 wins to the Cup"
Scratches: Sekera-Morrisonn official for Buffalo. Bobrovsky-Nodl-Prongerr-Shelley for the Flyers.
Flyers starters: Carcillo-Powe-Betts-O'Donnell-Meszaros. Goal: Boucher.
Sabres starters: Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier-Weber-Gragnani. Goal: Miller.
So much for Lindy's lines this morning, I guess?
Of note: Gragnani has assists on both goals and now leads NHL playoff scorers with four. He leads the Sabres tonight in ice time at 15:46. Easily the best blueliner tonight. ... Sabres have a 26-18 edge in faceoffs. ... Gerbe has played only 8:28. I'd like to see him more.
9:05 p.m.: The puck is dropped. And it's Gaustad centering Gerbe and Boyes.
19:19 left: Gaustad for interference, dumping a Flyer to the corner away from Miller.
17:36 left: Timonen for holding. Great job by Pominville forcing the issue in the Flyers' zone killing the penalty a few seconds after Stafford did likewise.
17:25 left: Boyes stopped in front.
17:17 left: Another Butler giveaway nearly spells disaster for the Sabres. No shot.
16:39 left: Ennis stopped on a Boyes feed. Sabres much better down low in this period.
15:25 left: Nothing else on the power play.
15:21 left: Boucher with a save on a Leopold shot. It's 4-1 for Buffalo in the period and 30-22 overall. Boucher has stopped 48 of 51 in the two games he's played.
14:21 left: Boucher with the save on Ennis from in front after good work in the corner by Myers.
13:46 left: Sabres back to the power play as Zherdev goes for hooking Boyes after a great Ennis feed.
13:01 left: Powe goes for a vicious charge of Gragnani into the goalpost. Great play a few seconds earlier by Connolly to keep the puck in. Timeout, Lindy. Sabres up two men for 1 minute, 15 seconds. AND IF THE FANS IN FRONT OF ME DON'T STOP POUNDING THE WALL AND SHAKING THE LAPTOP, IT'S GONNA BE GO TIME. SECURITY!
12:07 left: Boucher mask is off and he gets a whistle after he takes an Ennis shot to the face. Nice timing. Better than Enroth in Carolina. Vanek wide, Pominville blocked earlier on the 2-man.
11:00 left: Flyers survive. Boucher's floppy mask was a huge help.
9:20 left: Niedermayer, who has been good again, just wide with the wrister on a 3-on-2.
8:30 left: Flyers in hold-on mode. Shots are 8-2 for Buffalo in the period.
5:03 left: They just announced the plaza attendace is 5,000+. Wow. It's cold out there. Cool video board shots of the folks.
2:37 left: Flyers holding on, trying to win a game with just six shots on goal the last 23 minutes.
1:26 left: Puck to the netting above Miller. Faceoff in Buffalo zone.
1:10 left: Faceoff to Boucher's right. Miller out.
17.8 left: Sabres with some pressure but Flyers get it out and Timonen hits the empty net. Just too many mistakes in this one. Flyers lead, 4-2.
It's over: Flyers gut out a 4-2 win and Buffalo has lost two straight for the first time in the Pegula era. Philly leads series, 2-1. Game Four on Wednesday is basically a must-win now. Final shots were 37-26 for Buffalo (11-5 in the third). A 35-save night for Boucher.
Of note: Vogl wants to know (and I concur) why in the world the first song of the intermission is "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys. Appropriate title. God only knows why you'd play that one now. How about some pounding music to keep the momentum going? Did fans pick that one on Sabres.com? Boo...Gaustad led the Sabres with four shots and Stafford had three. Only three Flyers had shots -- Van Riemsdyk (3), Carter (2) and Carle (1). ...Flyers blocked 10 shots. Buffalo attempted 30, Philly just 11. ... Sabres dominated on faceoffs, 14-6. ... Gragnani leads NHL rookies in playoff points (3) tied for NHL playoff lead in assists (3).
8:06 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Kaleta is not on the bench.
17:40 left: The Sabres announce Kaleta has an upper-body and will not return. He certainly got whiplashed into the boards on the hit by Coburn. The Angola kid has had a tough, tough season. Can't stay healthy.
17:16 left: We have a Briere sighting in the worst way possible. Right off a faceoff, Butler brutally overskates the puck and Hartnell feeds it in front to an open Briere. Goal. Flyers lead, 2-1, even though they're geting outshot, 18-8.
16:39 left: Richards drills one off the post past a beaten Miller after Weber gives it away behind the net. Brutal. Defense showing its age in this period. The goal was a real shame for Butler, who has been a stud in this period.
15:03 left: Best save of the night by Miller, on a Zherdev one-timer from the slot.
13:48 left: Grier with another big hit, on Carle. The old horse has been a force thus far.
11:34 left: Connolly passes on a 2-on-1 and a chance is lost.. Shoot!!!
11:00 left: Boucher stops a streaking Gerbe on the backhand.
10:15 left: Briere undresses Butler and gets in alone but Miller makes the save.
9:40 left: This is a much better period for the Flyers. They're winning more battles and finding more room to work. Shots are 7-6 for Philly and the crowd has again been taken out of it.
6:28 left: Myers for cross-checking. Drove Carle nearly into Boucher.
5:40 left: Hartnell and Weber go for roughing after a scrum in the corner. Weber worked him over pretty good with some crosschecks to the back too.
4:11 left: Miller stops Leino from in front after Gragnani gave it away on the boards.
Check out video from the Party in the Plaza hosted by Tyler Dunne and produced by Lauren Mariacher.
3:16 left: Another giveaway, another Flyers goal. Montador makes the mistake and Richards finds Zherdev at the edge of the crease for an easy tap-in. Flyers lead, 3-1.Shots are 12-6 for Philly in this period.
1:48 left: Weber bad giveaway and richards barely misses the 4-1 goal but the Sabres come down and Gerbe rips home a brutally long and soft rebound handed to him by Boucher on a Connolly wrister. That's a terrible goal to give up in that spot. Flyers lead, 3-2.
1:07 left: Huge save by Miller on Timmonen off a great Briere feed as the trailer on what was a 2-on-1 turned into a 3-on-1.
End-2nd: McCormick and Boyes just miss getting the equalizer in the final 35 seconds. Sabres down, 3-2, after 40 minutes but probably deserve to be down by much monre. Shots were 15-10 for Philly in that period and 26-21 for Buffalo through two.
7:11 p.m.: The puck is dropped. The crowd is juiced, in more ways than one.
18:15 left: Leopold is out there with Montador. Shots are 2-0 for the Flyers.
16:34 left: Montador with the first shot by Buffalo and Leopold gets the rebound all the way near the line and drills it for another save. Good test of Leopold's wrist.
16:20 left: Kaleta for roughing, a brutally stupid penalty to take. Miller had the puck, a few players were around him and he just drilled Powe in the back. No reason for that.
15:18 left: The Flyers convert as Carter beats Miller from the right circle for his first point of the series. His shoot-in went off Weber and careened right back to him. I want my $6 million goalie to stop that shot. Flyers lead, 1-0, as the Kaleta penalty really hurts.
13:49 left: Miller stops Carter at nearly the same spot as the goal.
13:28 left: Shots are 5-2 Philly and the Flyers have exactly the scenario they wanted -- the first goal and a quiet crowd. Sabres appear tight, almost nervous, from the opening faceoff.
As for the lines, McCormick-Niedermayer-Grier started followed by Vanek-Connolly-Pominville, Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Niedermayer then went between Ennis and Stafford with Boyes, in fact, going between McCormick and Grier. On defense, it's Gragnani-Weber, Butler-Myers and Montador-Leopold.
11:45 left: Good hit by Grier on Hartnell. But where is the Sabres' energy? And where is the energy in this crowd? Sorry, people. It was way-way-way-way-way-way louder in Philly. No comparison. I don't get it.
10:08 left: Boucher stops Gaustad, who comes out of the corner with the puck but doesn't have much of an angle. Shots are 6-4 for the Flyers approaching the halfway mark of the period.
9:20 left: Great shift by Boyes-McCormick-Grier. McCormick had the best chance, a backhand from the slot that Boucher stopped. It gets the crowd back.
8:43 left: Coburn goes for drilling Kaleta behind the net (gets an interference call), and Kaleta is slow off the ice and headed to the dressing room.
8:05 left: And the Sabres answer on the power play with a badly-needed snapshot by Stafford from the slot of a Pominville feed. The "Dreeewwww" calls are out and so are the white pom-poms. Game tied, 1-1. And here come the "Bou-chay, Bou-chay" chants.
6:00 left: Just a thought: Has Danny Briere even been on the ice? Not a single boo because he hasn't touched the puck.
5:18 left: Great save by Boucher off Gaustad at the doorstep, holding the puck just outside the goalline. Sabres and crowd really coming on. Shots were 10-6 for Buffalo. Kid just held up a sign "I hate cheesesteaks". He apparently was picked by the Pegula daughters outside on the plaza to get tickets. Hmmm. I happen to love 'em, especially at Jim's. But whatever.
4:39 left: Sabres avert disaster. Van Riemsdyk gets the puck past Leopold and gets the puck through Miller's legs -- but it goes wide of the post. Kaleta, by the way, is not on the bench.
3:21 left: Hartnell gets a double minor for interference and delay of game (pushing the net off on a good chance for Butler). Huge chance.
End-1st: Sabres all over Philly on the PP but can't convert. They had five shots on goal -- and Connolly fanned on a point-blanker in the final three seconds. Shots in the period ended up 16-6 for the Sabres. And remember, it was 5-2 for Philly after 6 1/2 minutes. Flyers clearly saved by the bell in this one. Still have to kill off 39 seconds. The Sabres have done a great job on the PP the whole period of taking control of the puck in the Philly zone. No complaints. No. 1 star so far is Boucher. That's a problem when the one Flyers goal is a bad one on Miller.