PHILADELPHIA – It sounds so much like the familiar noise that can echo throughout Philadelphia’s stadiums.
Only this call sounds so sweet to the Flyers.
Brian Boucher delivered again in the post-season, this time stopping 20 shots in a relief effort, and the Flyers beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 on Saturday to even their first-round series at a game apiece.
Boucher, one of many unlikely playoff stars when the Flyers orchestrated a surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals last season, relieved Sergei Bobrovsky after the rookie allowed three goals on seven shots.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night in Buffalo.
And now, the question everyone wants answered is this: Boosh or Bob?
Well, no one in the home locker room touched that one.
Boucher: “We’ll see what happens. We’ll deal with that (Sunday). I’ll be prepared for whatever.”
Bobrovsky: “Whatever the coach says, I will do.”
And the man with the final answer, coach Peter Laviolette, refused to discuss his decision.
“We don’t talk about goaltenders, injuries or lineups,” he said. “That should take care of it.”
But he did praise Boucher.
“Brian has bailed us out so many times. He just has a sense of calmness about him,” Laviolette said. “It was such a lively game, and he can come in and really settle things down for us. That’s what he did tonight.”
Introduced to the familiar strains of “Booosh,” Boucher stopped 17 straight shots into the third, and brought a calming sense to what was becoming a video game-like contest, stuffed with goals, penalties, fights and controversy.
“Obviously, it’s a little more comfortable to know that you are getting the start and prepare the day before accordingly,” Boucher said. “But, sometimes, you have to deal with curveballs.”
Ville Leino and Danny Briere scored clutch goals in the second period that put the Flyers up for good.
Thomas Vanek had two power-play goals for the Sabres, and Andrej Sekera and Cody McCormick also scored.
“I think home ice is nice, hopefully we get a boost from it,” Vanek said. “We know Philly is a good road team and we expect tight games again.”
The Flyers and Sabres combined for six goals, almost 30 penalty minutes and three goalies in the first period. There was still 40 minutes left—and each team thrilled down to the final seconds.
The frustration from Game 1’s punchless offence was taken out with punches almost from the opening faceoff. Paul Gaustad cross-checked Briere on a faceoff, and Scott Hartnell backed Briere by triggering a quick fight with Gaustad. It wasn’t much of a bout. Gaustad yanked Hartnell’s sweater over his face and unloaded his fists on his face. Both players then hit the penalty box—part of 54 combined penalty minutes.
“I think we did get a little bit too jacked up,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought our response was a little too far, but I’d like to take it too far than not enough. I would love them to do so in our building.”
The Philly crowd, which had nothing to cheer about in Game 1, went wild and suddenly it felt like playoff hockey.
At that point, it was already 1-1. Claude Giroux needed only four minutes to put the Flyers in front, then pounded on the glass in a celebration that riled up the orange-and-black diehards. Vanek tied it just 2:43 later.
Bobrovsky had earned the nod from Laviolette after a solid rookie season. The Flyers used Boucher and Michael Leighton in their run to the Stanley Cup finals last season, so there’s no guarantee the rookie gets another chance.
Bobrovsky allowed soft goals to Vanek and Sekera, helping Buffalo build a 3-2 lead.
The Flyers were bailed out, though, when James van Riemsdyk fired a wrister off the post and past Ryan Miller to tie it again.
Miller failed to build off his sensational 35-save shutout in Game 1.
“They were putting pucks on the net so I guess that is what you get,” Miller said. “You have to put pucks on net and sometimes you are going to get it and they got a few.”
The Flyers pounded Miller most of the first two periods and finally cashed in on the power play when Leino made it 4-3 in the second. In an absolutely futile special teams effort, the Flyers failed to score on two 5-on-3 attempts after going scoreless in a Game 1 two-man advantage attempt.
But Leino, another playoff star a year ago, gave the Flyers the lead on a short-side power-play wrister. Briere, a former Sabres co-captain, added a breathing-room goal.
The Sabres sliced the lead to 5-4 in the third when McCormick tipped Rob Niedermayer’s backhander past Boucher.
No matter who is in net for the Flyers, they would love to have Chris Pronger back on the blue-line. Pronger did not play for the second straight playoff game because of broken right hand. He remains day to day.
The Flyers also have to fix the power play after a woeful 1 for 15 effort in the series.
Dan Carcillo also scored for the Flyers in the frantic first period. He was left all alone at the tip of the crease and had an easy look off a rebound that made it 2-1 in a scrum-filled period.
“Both games were great hockey,” Laviolette said, “They were just played differently.”
NOTES: Sabres D Shaone Morrisonn did not play after getting hit in Game 1 and is day to day with an undisclosed injury. … Sekera returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury.