BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – Brian Boucher stopped 35 shots as the Flyers new starting goalie in helping Philadelphia grab a first-round playoff series lead with a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.
Danny Briere and Nikolay Zherdev keyed the victory by scoring second-period goals as Philadelphia bounced back with two straight wins after a 1-0 series-opening loss Thursday. Game 4 is at Buffalo on Wednesday.
Nikolay Zherdev and Kimmo Timonen, with an empty-netter, also scored as the Flyers improved to 6-0-2 in their past eight visits to Buffalo, including the regular season.
Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe scored in a game the Sabres never led. Buffalo has lost consecutive games for the first time since ending a three-game skid Feb. 23.
Boucher got the start after he stopped 20 of 21 shots in a 5-4 win Saturday in relief of rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled by allowing three goals on seven shots. Bobrovsky went from playoff starter to healthy scratch as recently called-up Michael Leighton served as the backup.
Boucher was greeted with mock chants of “Boooo-shey!” from the energized sold-out house in Buffalo from the opening minute. He then proceeded to quiet the crowd with a series of solid saves – including 15 in the first period.
He was at his best in the third period with the Flyers clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Boucher held his ground to stop Brad Boyes, who drove to the front of the net off a face-off 2:30 in. Less than a minute later, Boucher got around in time to foil Tyler Ennis, who got off a one-timer in front after being set up by Boyes.
His only miscue came on Gerbe’s goal, which cut the Flyers to lead to 3-2 with 1:48 left in the second period. Gerbe snapped a shot from the left circle to convert a rebound after Boucher failed to corral Tim Connolly’s shot from the other side.
Briere and Zherdev scored exactly 14 minutes apart in the second period to put the Flyers up 3-1.
Scott Hartnell capitalized on Chris Butler’s giveaway at the side of the Sabres net, and set up Briere for a one-timer in front 2:44 into the period.
Another Sabres miscue led to Zherdev’s goal, as forward Cody McCormick overskated the puck at the left boards inside his own zone. Kris Versteeg immediately fed a cross-ice pass to Mike Richards, who sent the puck to a wide-open Zherdev for an easy tip-in at the right post.
The Sabres played with much more discipline after providing the Flyers 10 power-play opportunities on Sunday and 15 through the first two games. Buffalo finished with a 6-3 edge in power-play chances, but was only able to capitalize once.
Trailing 3-2, the Sabres’ best chance came during a two-man advantage spanning 1:15 midway through the third period.
They managed only two shots, including Ennis set up alone for a one-timer to the right of the net. Boucher got across and stopped the shot with his mask.
The teams traded power-play goals in a first period that ended tied at 1.
Carter opened the scoring 4:42 with a snap shot from the right circle that sneaked in under Ryan Miller’s right arm, and left the Sabres goalie shaking his head.
Stafford tied it seven minutes later by getting a pass in the slot before spinning toward the net to fire a shot in the top left corner past Boucher, who was screened in front by Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek.
The Sabres lost gritty forward Patrick Kaleta to what the team called an upper-body injury in the first period. Kaleta was shaken up 11 minutes in after he collided with Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn deep in the Philadelphia zone. Kaleta was slow to get up after being knocked to the ice. Coburn was penalized for interference, which led to Stafford’s power-play goal.
Notes: Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said Chris Pronger is “not coming along as fast as everybody thought” since the veteran defenseman had surgery to repair a broken right hand in early March. Pronger took part in the morning skate, and remains listed as day to day in missing his 19th game. … Sabres D Jordan Leopold returned after missing 10 games with a broken bone in his left hand. He replaced D Andrej Sekera, who played Game 2 after missing the opener with an upper body injury. … Flyers RW Andreas Nodl did not play after being cut under his right eye Saturday. He was replaced by Zherdev.
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