They dream of chances like the ones they had a wide-open net, a point-blank one-on-one with the goaltender. And although the Philadelphia Flyers had those very opportunities Wednesday night, those and many others, for the second time in this deadlocked series they failed to trigger the goal light behind Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.
What are the odds? That's what Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk was left to wonder after the Flyers came out of the first period trailing by the eventual final score of 1-0. Philly had begun to swing the momentum its way when van Riemsdyk received a pass in the slot and eyed a yawning net. Miller lunged across the crease, stick outstretched, hoping to get a piece of the forthcoming shot. It never found the target. The puck clipped the stick of Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers and skipped off the cross bar and van Riemsdyk, a dominant force in the series, was denied his second goal of the postseason.
"I knew I had an open net and I just shot it as hard as I could and you think about, what is it, an inch and a half of a stick shaft getting across?" van Riemsdyk said. "It's just one of those kind of nights I guess."
That's the way it would go for the Flyers. Danny Briere found himself one-on-one with Miller with 8:50 remaining, tried to back the goaltender in, and then fired into his glove. Mike Richards had space to Miller's right with 5:03 left, but the Sabres' goaltender recovered to smother a low shot to the near post.
"You've got to score on those chances," Briere said. "Usually we're used to going in with speed, moving your legs, going one way or the other, but I couldn't really make a move because I had no speed. I was just trying to make a quick move and get it up but I really couldn't go around him. I had to try to get it through him. It's just one of those situations. It happens like that. I wish I could have it again."
"We had a lot of opportunities toward the net, pucks that were just near misses," Richards said.
The Sabres fired up the HSBC crowd by throwing checks right from the get-go. The fierce approach put at least one Flyer on guard.
The second period was winding down when Richards, against the boards and facing the Philly bench, glimpsed over his shoulder to see Patrick Kaleta bearing down. Richards responded by throwing a left elbow that felled the Sabres winger and drew a five-minute major. Richards was shocked at the severity of the penalty and felt there was no justification for assessing a major.
"Do I think so? No," he said. "I just saw him take a couple hard strides at me and knew I had to protect myself. I'm just trying to protect myself out there."
The penalty somehow managed to shift the momentum toward the Flyers. The Sabres struggled on the ensuing power play, mustering just two shots and little zone time over the final 2 1/2 minutes.
"We killed a major penalty and stayed in it," said Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher. "I know we didn't get the result we wanted but it was a pretty good game."
Cloudy is the status of winger Jeff Carter, Philly's regular-season goal leader with 36. Carter met knee-to-knee with Myers with just over two minutes remaining in the first period, a collision that sent both players to the locker room. Myers, who had his head snapped back by Carter's shoulder, returned for the second period. Not Carter, who was coming off a two-point night in the Flyers' Game Three victory.eos