Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards had a lot to say Wednesday night about the quality of the officiating in Game Four. He was stunned at receiving a five-minute major for elbowing Buffalo Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta. Why such a harsh penalty, he wondered, especially when the Sabres "are getting away with murder."
The gist of the response issued by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff on Thursday morning: Grow up.
"I just feel that they're doing a lot of whining," Ruff said. "They're really doing a lot of whining. I didn't hear any whining when they had 10 power plays in Philly and I don't hear any whining when the power plays in the first game were lopsided. But all of a sudden there's all this whining about we're getting away with murder? That's a bunch of crap. That's for the media, that's for the officials to read, that's for 'Here, let's get the next call.' That's a bunch of crap. Let's just play.
"We're just playing," Ruff said. "There hasn't been one word about officiating out of us. If they want to cry about the officiating or whine about different calls, go ahead. Go ahead."
Buffalo's 1-0, Game Four victory ended with a scrum along the sideboards in front of the benches. It may have been the boiling point of the series, with both sides likely to show more restraint now that the matchup is down to a best-of-three and needless penalties could prove difference-makers. Or will bad blood continue to surface?
"They're hard on the right guys," Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo said after Game Four. "They haven't said boo to some of the other guys who they know will fight back. That's the way they play. That's the way they've always played. So we'll see what happens in [Game] Five."
And what's likely to happen is . . .
"It's way too much at stake here for a guy on their team to want to get a guy back on the first shift," said Sabres center Cody McCormick. "That's not what anybody needs on their team. I think they're smart like that. I know we are. So it's just going to be a good brand of hockey next game."
Talk of retribution probably would never surface if either side was making the other pay for its trips to the penalty box. The Sabres are just 3 of 19 on the power play and frittered away a man advantage over the first 4:57 of the third period. The Flyers are 2 for 21.
"If special teams don't do the job for you, you can afford to do whatever you want is the way I look at it," Ruff said. " We had some tough passes. We had some tough decisions. We looked pretty bad on that five-minute major. The way you negate any of that stuff is to make your power play dangerous. And then you can't afford to take [penalties].
"Both teams penalty-killing has been strong. I've looked around the playoffs, power play's been a tough gig almost everywhere except for a couple real good teams."
Composure in response to errors was a factor in the Sabres' ability to withstand Philly's pressure down the stretch.
"I didn't think we made smart enough decisions on the walls, which [is where] we've been a real good team," Ruff said. "But after we made a bad decision we reacted the right way. We stayed in the middle. We made sure we kept them to the outside. But we put some pucks where we had no support and that kept us in our zone for a while."
Conversely, the Flyers found little to fault themselves for over the final 40 minutes outside of their failure to get a puck past Ryan Miller.
"The last two periods we were in control of the puck a lot more," Briere said. "We created lots of chances. Once again, Ryan was good. Both goalies were good. But the effort, the way we were creating chances, all of that was good."
Mike Weber was urging McCormick to come up with a good quote in advance of Game Five. McCormick asked Weber if he meant something Vince Lombardi-like, then said he'd think on it.
The two decided to go with Weber's mantra: "Don't wish for it, work for it."
"My summer trainer always said it," Weber explained.
Could Derek Roy be on the verge of a return? He said he's done everything except hit, which doctors forbid him to do until four months after knee surgery. Saturday will be four months.
Meanwhile, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger also is close to returning. He practiced during Thursday's optional workout in Philly and coach Peter Laviolette answered "yes" to the question of whether Pronger could be effective in a limited role. Pronger has been sidelined since undergoing hand surgery about a month ago.
Reports have Flyers winger and regular-season goal-scoring leader Jeff Carter undergoing further examination on his right knee. Carter left Game Four for good after a collision with Tyler Myers with about two minutes left in the first period.
The Sabres held an optional skate at HSBC Arena on Thursday morning before catching a charter to Philly. All three goaltenders participated. The skaters on hand were Paul Gaustad, Nathan Gerbe, Steve Montador, Weber, Roy, Marc-Andre Gragnani, McCormick and Jordan Leopold.