BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ilya Bryzgalov shrugged off two terrific saves the same way he shook off a pair of fluky goals.
Bryzgalov denied Sabres leading scorer Thomas Vanek’s two attempts on the doorstep over the final 16 seconds, and the Philadelphia Flyers chased all-star goalie Ryan Miller with three early goals in a 3-2 victory Wednesday night.
After having the first Buffalo goal bank in off his leg, and the second go off a defenceman’s skate, Bryzgalov saved the day with his outstanding stops on Vanek.
“You know, I just try and stop the puck,” he said.
Miller, though, was unable to do that early on when the Sabres were making ill-advised plays. He faced 11 shots before getting pulled 6:23 into the game when Scott Hartnell’s slap shot from the top of the left circle whizzed over the goalie’s left shoulder.
“We were really peppering him early,” Hartnell said. “Against a top goalie like that, to get him out of there, it was pretty good for us to get pucks on net.”
Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk also scored, and Bryzgalov finished with 29 saves for the Flyers, who won their second straight after losing four of five.
“Everyone battled hard and we were rewarded with two points,” Bryzgalov said. “It was a really tough game for us. We played very good in the first period, but then in the second period we turned over the puck and got some penalties.”
But the damage was already done against Miller, who is 0-4-0 in his last four games with a 3.91 goals-against average.
“I’d like to make a save and help the team out,” he said.
It was the first meeting between the teams since the Flyers eliminated the Sabres during their Eastern Conference quarter-final last season—and it began just like Game 7, when the Flyers jumped out to a 4-0 lead en route to a 5-2 win.
“They turned up the heat in the second period and the third period,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. “There were some tough bounces on those goals, but that’s the way it’s been going so far.”
Luke Adam had a goal and an assist and Andrej Sekera also scored for the Sabres, who have lost four of five. They fell to 1-4-0 in Buffalo.
Miller finished with eight saves before being lifted for backup Jhonas Enroth, who had 15 saves in relief.
“It’s things we talked about throughout the first part of the week, about being better with the puck, and we weren’t,” Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. “The message is there, we have to go out and do it.”
The Flyers were without centre Danny Briere for the second straight game because of an upper-body injury.
Vanek, meanwhile, missed almost 20 minutes after leaving midway through the second period. He skated directly to the dressing room after a scrum in front of the Flyers net while Buffalo was on a power play, but returned with 12 minutes to go in the third. He sustained a gash over his right eye that blurred his vision temporarily and required stitches.
“Right away I was a little scared,” Vanek said. “All of a sudden I couldn’t see, and I felt like someone sliced me.”
On his first shift back Vanek assisted on Adam’s goal, which made it 3-2 with 11:31 remaining. Adam’s pass attempt to the front from behind the goal line deflected in off Philadelphia defenceman Kimmo Timonen’s skate.
Down by three goals after 20 minutes, the Sabres closed the gap to 3-1 on Sekera’s first of the season. His slap shot from the blue line ricocheted off the end boards before banking in off Bryzgalov’s pads.
The Flyers struck first with a pair of goals only 13 seconds apart early in the first. Couturier banged home a rebound at 1:43, and van Riemsdyk made it 2-0 with a wrist shot into the top right corner from the left circle.
NOTES: The last time Miller was pulled due to a poor performance was after allowing four goals in one period at Florida on Dec. 17, 2010. Enroth replaced Miller halfway through the final game of last season, but that was by design. It was the third-quickest pull in Miller’s career. … Flyers forward Matt Read missed his first game because of an upper-body injury. … Bryzgalov improved to 1-3-0 in his last four games against Buffalo. … Sabres C Ville Leino signed with Buffalo during the off-season after registering career highs in goals and points with Philadelphia last season. … The Sabres are 1-3-0 during their five-game homestand, tied for their longest this season. They finish off the stretch Friday against Calgary. … Former Sabres majority owner B. Thomas Golisano and minority owner Larry Quinn were in attendance.