PHILADELPHIA -- Greetings from high atop the Wells Fargo center for Game Five and I immediately bring you some good news as we get set for the latest installment of NHL's whine-and-cheesesteak series between the Sabres and Flyers: No, it's not that Chris Pronger is definitely out, although that is good for the Sabres. The big news is I got an Ethernet port going so we're expecting no issues with the connection here and the live blog, as we had in Games One and Two.
Now that you know my technical issues are secure, let's talk hockey. OK, wait a minute. We'll talk hockey in a minute after food. I had to stop at the Reading Terminal Market today and it was phalanx of people to navigate on Good Friday. Saw a Sabres fan wearing a slug jersey bless himself in line at a cheesesteak place. I thought he was worried about eating a Philly delicacy today but folks on Twitter reminded me about Good Friday and no meat (you lose track of days covering one of these).
We flew into Baltimore last night (saving the good folks at One News Plaza nearly $700 apiece on three airfares) and stopped for dinner at G&M Restaurant, about the greatest crabcake place on the planet. Props to John Vogl for that find.
Now, let's talk hockey. The Flyers are going to come out flying and hitting in this one. That's all they've been saying. They've even put incendiary quotes on the jumbotron during the pregame, such as Kimmo Timonen saying they'll double their hits tonight from Game Four and Ville Leino saying the Sabres "won't be heroes so much" on the road.
Here's one way to do it: It looks like injured Jeff Carter might be replaced by 5-foot-11, 180-pound Zac Rinaldo, the organizational thug from the Adirondack Phantoms. He had 331 penalty minutes in the AHL this season -- yes, 331 -- and ended it on a three-game suspension. Reading tweets from Flyers reporters, Rinaldo had more suspensions this year (4) than goals (2).
Ben Holmstrom, who can actually skate and play hockey, also took the warmup. We'll see who gets the call.
Let's see if the Flyers can dent Ryan Miller. Oddly enough, it's Brian Boucher who leads NHL goalies in the playoffs with a .954 save percentage and 1.54 GAA. Miller is fourth at 2.02 and .937, also pretty awesome stats.
We have another thanks-for-nothing-TSN 7:40 start on our hands. We should be able to provide plenty of updates here.
Just got this word from CSNPhilly.com -- They're reporting Pronger and Carter are both out for the series. Wow.
Check out the archive of Bucky and Vogl's pregame chat by going to this link. And be sure to join us Sunday at 2:30 prior to Game Six.
Scratches: It's official that Rinaldo is in over Holmstrom. Also out are Carter, Pronger and Andreas Nodl. The Sabres continue to scratch Roy, Hecht, Morrisonn and Sekera.
Sabres starters: Gerbe-Connolly-Stafford-Butler-Myers. Goal: Miller
Flyers starters: Carcillo-Richards-Versteeg-Coburn-Timonen. Goal: Boucher
10:23: The puck is dropped
15:51 left: Some technical trouble. Shots are 4-0 for Flyers. No great chances.
14:29 LEFT: Ennis on the rebound from Weber. SABRES WIN 4-3..
Of note: Van Riemsdyk leads all players with five shots. Meszaros has four and joins Giroux with two point games while playing 17:28. ... Vanek leads Buffalo with four shots. Sabres have a 19-18 edge in faceoffs -- even though Connolly is 2-10.
9:29 p.m: The puck is dropped.
16:24 left: Just an out-and-out disaster. Sabres doing nothing in this period and the inevitable tying goal comes. Of course, from Briere. Versteeg beats Butler to the puck and Briere sneaks from the back to take Richards' pass and beat Gaustad to the open set by a surprised Miller. Game tied, 3-3.
15:36 left: Leighton stops Boyes. His first decent save. Just the ninth shot he's faced.
13:59 left: Boyes and Ennis get a couple chances and Leighton stops Ennis, who has easily been Buffalo's best forward tonight. This is hard to believe that there's been three huge blown leads this week (NYR vs. Washington and LA vs. San Jose). In most cases, you get a big lead in the playoffs and you lock it down. Pretty amazing.
13:17 left: Leighton stops Stafford cutting in front.
12:24 left: Briere goes for interference. Mauls Gaustad near the Flyers' net. Sabres coming on.
9:55 left: Leighton solid during the PK. Sabres have 27-26 edge in shots. It's 9-2 in this period. They've been much better, oddly enough, since the tying goal. Leighton played just one NHL game this year but you have to remember he led this team to within two games of the Cup last year.
6:45 left: Shots are 27-27.
4:15 left: Timonen with the block on Connolly from the slot. Big news for the Flyers: Giroux limps off and looks bad doing it.
2:22 left: Leopold for hooking. Dumps Zherdev in front. Kind of ticky-tac for this late in this situation.
2:05 left: Giroux in alone. ... Miller stones him. Went right between Butler and Myers.
1:13 left: Timeout, Flyers. Lot of pressure so far. One of their best PPs of the series.
On to OT: We're tied at 3-3. Shots were 11-11 and it's 35-29 through regulation for Philly.
Of note: Flyers credited with 16 hits, Sabres just six. OK, Mr. Statman. Whatever. Myers played 8:57 and Gragnani 7:27. ... Briere is -2 and his penalty cost Flyers third goal. Vanek only Sabre wtih three shots.
NO POMINVILLE, NO LEOPOLD on the bench. Did Pominville get cut when the skate came loose?
17:21 left: Gaustad goes for holding. Building very quiet.
15:30 left: Niedermayer for delay, a rolling puck over the glass. Flyers up two men for nine seconds.
14:32 left: Great save by Miller on the 5-on-3 on a deflection from the edge of the crease by Giroux.
13:12 left: Sabres survive. Flyers power play is just terrible. Crowd booing after an icing.
13:04 left: Sabres say Pominville (lower body) will NOT return. Leopold (upper body) MAY return.
11:48 left: Van Riemsdyk, easily the Flyers' best player in the series, grabs the rebound of Meszaros' point shot, walks around Miller and stuffs it home. Definite danger zone for Sabres. Sabres lead, 3-1.
10:48 left: Miller snares Carle's shot from the point. Crowd getting back into it. Shots are 18-13 for the Flyers.
10:03 left: Now they're really back into it. Meszaros drills a one-timer from the slot past a screened Miller. Sabres lead cut to 3-2. Timeout, Lindy. Shots are 10-1 for Philly in the period.
9:02 left: During commercial, building roaring, heckling Miller, "Let's Go Flyers" etc. Vogl and I agree: At HSBC, they'd play a blooper reel or the kisscam and kill the crowd. That's why the atmosphere stinks there a lot. People running the game presentation don't understand hockey momentum.
6:15 left: Gragnani for cross checking. Looked like a nice dive by Powe. Plus the official at center ice a long way away called it rather than the guy looking right at it. Leopold returned on the last shift by the way.
4:17 left: Miller stops an open Briere to his right. Shots are 23-15 for Philly (14-2 in the period).
3:23 left: Another good save by Miller on a Carcillo backhand from in tight.
End-2nd: Sabres holding on to their 3-2 lead. Shots were 15-5 for Philly (24-18 overall). That's a good example of getting saved by the bell. Sabres need this break.
7:40 p.m.: After another scintillating Lauren Hart-Kate Smith duet, the puck is dropped.
17:36 left: Exactly the start Buffalo wants. A brutal goal allowed by Boucher as Ennis beats him with a low shot nearly from the goalline on the Sabres' first shot. Was Boucher playing a pass? To who? Wow. Sabres lead, 1-0. Ennis' first of the series.
17:14 left: Rinaldo played on the second shift and had a couple of hits, one on Vanek and a solid one on Kaleta. both clean. This place is stone quiet.
16:44 left: Stafford stopped on a wraparound. Sabres need to put every puck on the net while Boucher and this crowd are in shock. See if you get another gift, maybe another fat rebound.
16:09 left: Wow, part II. Kaleta beats a Flyer to the puck behind the net and tips it to Vanek -- who banks if off Boucher from behind the goal line. Incredible. Sabres lead, 2-0. Vanek's first of the series at even strength and third overall. Sabres lead, 2-0.
15:49 left: This shows the Flyers' problem. I'd have pulled Boucher. But can you really go with your No. 3 guy, even if Michael Leighton led the team to the Stanley Cup finals last year?
12:33 left: Shots are 8-2 for Buffalo. The place is stunned. Pominville just shot wide on an Ennis feed. Myers had a good chance blanked and Boucher made a save on Boyes. Aside from the score, it's a perfect start for Buffalo because the Flyers can't run around like crazy and risk taking penalties. You might not see Rinaldo at all now.
11:10 left: Flyers turning the puck over and Boucher giving out rebounds all over the place. Meszaros gone for tripping Vanek -- gave him the puck away at the blue line and had to prevent a breakaway. Shots are 9-2. I'm surprised Laviolette didn't go for the timeout after the second goal. He might have no choice here if Buffalo converts.
9:00 left: Just one shot on the PP. Let's see if that's some momentum for Philly. Sholts are 10-2.
8:42 left: Another Philly giveaway but Leino stops a 2-on-1 by blocking Stafford's pass to McCormick. This is by far the most lopsided 11 minutes of the series. The Flyers have been absolutely awful from the goal out.
8:17 left: Montador for high sticking. Careless play against the wall going with Hartnell. No reason for it.
6:14 left: Just as the penalty ends, Richards takes a slash at Miller. Butler responds. Crowd irate as Richards and Butler both go. And they have shown replays here at least three times that I've noticed to incite the crowd. Butler roughing, Richards slashing. Lindy would probably say Richards and the crowd are whining again.
5:10 left: Briere for goalie interference. Obvious call there. Not even much booing on the replays.
4:24 left: Great passing on the 4-on-3 and the Sabres convert. Gragnani lets it go and it beats Boucher between the legs. Sabres lead, 3-0, and here comes Leighton for Boucher. Shots are 11-7 for Buffalo.
3:23 left: Miller's best save on Giroux all alone after a Pominville giveaway at the line. And Pominville is off to the dressing room. Dropped his gloves and stick and I'll be totally honest -- I was looking down and typing. Didn't see it.
1:30 left: Weber limps off, took shot off left leg.
End-1st: Sabres hold the 3-0 lead. Shots are 13-9 for Sabres. We also note Leopold didn't play much at the end of that period. We'll have to see how all this injury stuff shakes out.