April 24, 2011
The Philadelphia Flyers started a postseason hero in goal, one who gave up three goals on eight shots in 19:48 and was pulled. They brought back their All-Star defenseman and attitudinal guide Chris Pronger(notes) to strictly play on the power play (4:33), where he didn't produce a point and picked up two penalty minutes.
They got down 2-0 in an elimination game on the road, and then 3-1, then 4-3. They came back every time, and then forced a Game 7 in this unpredictable series on this Ville Leino(notes) goal at 4:43 in overtime, for the 5-4 win over Buffalo.
Kris Versteeg(notes) makes this play happen: Alertly firing a second shot after Paul Gaustad(notes) blocked it. Ryan Miller(notes), who had an inconsistent game to put it kindly, blocked it away high after a Mike Richards(notes) tip. Chris Butler(notes), having a rough day with two minor penalties, couldn't box out Leino for the game-winner.
That the Flyers won this game with the goaltending they received was nothing short of miraculous. Michael Leighton(notes) was terrible: Rob Niedermayer's(notes) goal was soft. One of Thomas Vanek's(notes) was in slow-motion, another snuck through the five hole. The one goal Brian Boucher(notes) let in was a whiff on a Nathan Gerbe(notes) shot.
And yet here we are, in a Game 7 on Tuesday in Philly, which is a tribute to the resiliency of the Flyers that play in front of the crease.
A few thoughts:
• Danny Briere(notes) now has five goals in six playoff games, after 12 in 23 last season. In his career, Briere has 90 points in 92 playoff games. He used to be viewed as an overpaid, soft player; he's now one of the best playoff performers in the NHL, no debate.
• Quintessential Mike Richards game: Dangerous hit on Tim Connolly(notes), shoving his head into the glass on a boarding penalty. (Leaving it as a minor was the right call. Coach Lindy Ruff thinks it's "something the league definitely has to take a look at," and Connolly is "out" for Game 7.) And yet he had the primary helpers on the game-tying and game-winnng goal, and led all Flyers forwards in shifts (32). If you're saying you wouldn't take him on your team, you're lying.
• Reader Steve Lansky with the line of the day: "Maybe Nathan Gerbe's signature move should be to dive into a photographer's hole."
• Again, it's an unpredictable series. But did anyone get the sense late in this game that the Sabres are going to regret not closing this out in six?