It would almost be easier to get George Lopez to write a joke that didn’t involve him being Mexican than it is for the Philadelphia Flyers to score a power play goal against Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres during the first two games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Flyers broke that drought in Game 2’s 5-4 win Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
As for Lopez, don’t expect him to drop the act any time soon.
After going 0-5 on the power play in Game 1, Miller continued to secure the net for the Flyers first six power play attempts in Game 2.
Yet, the law of statistics prevailed as Ville Leino ended, at that point, Philadelphia’s 0-11 series power play blunders with a goal 13:36 in the 2nd period.
“Obviously until you score it’s kind of tough when you’re just hitting your head on the wall,” said Leino. “So, it’s going to open up some chances now and I think were going to be more loose on the power play.”
Even after the goal the Flyers went 0-3 on the power play the rest of the way.
“It felt good though when Ville got the one in the second,” defensemen Sean O’Donnell added with a sigh of relief.
Still, in a constant up and down game, Leino proved to be the difference maker as Philadelphia secured the one point victory.
“That is the huge part,” agreed James van Riemsdyk. “The power play, you want to get those kind of goals out there and we found a way to get one there and it ended up being a big goal. Hopefully we can build off that and bury more of those chances on the power play.”
The Flyers finished the evening a woeful 1-10 shooting performance with the man advantage including nearly two minutes worth of 5-on-3 action.
“We certainly wanted to see some results.” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette on the power play performance. “We’re getting rips out of it and we’re getting looks but it certainly is not what we are looking for is an end result.”
Amazingly nearly half, 14 of Philadelphia’s 34 shots on goal, came on the power play thanks to Buffalo’s 29 penalty minutes that led to 15:49 minutes of power play opportunities. Opportunities the Flyers once again couldn’t take advantage of.
“There are a lot of opportunities and still things we can do better with regards to breakout and entry, possession and recovery, and screens and tips,” Laviolette pointed out. “So, there are lots of things we can do better.”
Oddly enough, after being shut out Game 1 Philadelphia shot 4-17 at even strength Saturday including a goal on the team’s third attempt of the night from Flyers team MVP winger Claude Giroux. Even with the strong play at full strength, the lack of power play production weighs heavily on the team.
“Anytime you get a goal like that when the power play is struggling, when the whole team is working hard and drawing penalties and you’re power play is not really scoring it’s disappointing and frustrating,” said Giroux.
Certainly the Flyers didn’t lack intensity in a wild game that lasted nearly three hours with six combined goals in the first period, the most for a Flyers playoff game since 1997, with a little help from a nonstop roaring home crowd. Philadelphia even out hit the Sabres 34 to 31 tallying 25 penalty minutes of their own.
Still that intensity couldn’t translate into advantage goals. Or maybe Miller is just that clutch saving 13 of 14 shots with uneven numbers.
“Buffalo is a good penalty killing team,” added O’Donnell. “I mean, we know that we’ve had some struggles on the power play but Buffalo does a good job. They block a lot of shots and whatever Miller sees, he stops.”
“Miller made some key saves. Finally we were able to get one by him,” said Flyers center Danny Briere. “At the end of the night it’s the goal that makes the difference.”
Without the lone power play goal the Flyers head into overtime, not a scenario Philadelphia wants to be in.
“I think there were times when we maybe could’ve put that game away or certainly given ourselves more breathing room.” said O’Donnell. “But, it’s baby steps. You know, we got a [power play] goal tonight. It was nice to get one and we’ll keep moving forward and hopefully have a little more luck on the road.”
The Flyers have their work cut out for them as the series shifts to Buffalo for Game 3 Monday. Even with the series tied at 1-1, Leino and the Flyers remain optimistic about their power play heading into hostile territory.
“The goal was important. The power play has been struggling a little bit so we’re pretty happy we got one goal and I think it’s going to keep us confident for the next game.”