Work in Sports
PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Rookie Simon Gagne's power-play goal with 14:27 remaining snapped a tie as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Rookie goaltender Brian Boucher stopped 18 shots, including a key save late, for the Flyers, who will look to take a 2-0 series lead at home on Friday.
"The support among the players for each other is just wonderful," Flyers associate coach Criag Ramsay said. "We were as vocal tonight as we've been in a long, long time. Guys start calling out changes for their team as well as our team, cheering each play even if it's just a puck that's flipped off the glass and out. They are recognizing the importance of all details and are supporting each other."
With Buffalo's Geoff Sanderson in the penalty box for charging, Gagne picked up a loose puck at the right side of the net during a scramble and lifted a backhander over goaltender Dominik Hasek for the game-winner.
"(John) LeClair caught a pass at the left circle and tried to put the puck on the net," Gagne said. "Primeau got the rebound, then I had the puck down at the net. Hasek was down low so, I put the puck high into the net. I'm pretty happy. My first playoff game and I get the game-winning goal. That's great."
Gagne was a surpise producer for the Flyers during the regular season, recording 20 goals and 48 points in 80 games while placing third on the team with a plus-12 rating.
Buffalo, which produced just five shots in the third period, had a chance to tie it in the final minute, but Boucher kicked aside defenseman Jason Woolley's blast from the point to preserve the win.
"We didn't do a good enough job of applying pressure, especially in the third," Sabres captain Michael Peca said. "The two goals that we did get are an indication of what we have got to do. We have to put the puck at the net. He played pretty solid, but if we put more pucks on the net, I like our chances."
Boucher, who displaced veteran John Vanbiesbrouck in mid-season, led the league with a 1.91 goals-against average and was fourth with a .918 save percentage but had just 35 regular-season games under his belt.
"This is only one game," he said. "We have to keep the momentum going again tomorrow. We have to use that to our advantage. We don't have a day off. We go right back at it and hopefully get another one. I expect to see more of the same. You can feel the intensity already."
Hasek, who led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, stopped 27 shots before falling to 29-23 in the playoffs. He allowed nine goals in five games the last time he faced the Flyers in the postseason two years ago.
"We believe we can score goals," he said. "We scored two in the second. It wasn't enough. On their last goal, I made the first two saves, but I couldn't make the third one. That happens sometimes."
Keith Jones and Daymond Langkow scored just under four minutes apart late in the first period to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. Jones' goal came with the man advantage, while Langkow tallied on a shorthanded breakaway with eight seconds remaining.
"Guys were talking about that, he's beatable," Langkow said of Hasek. "We scored three goals on him tonight. It's not going to be easy, but we're a team that gets a lot of shots. If you get enough shots, you're gonna score some goals."
The Flyers boasted the NHL's second-best power-play unit at 20.3 percent, while Buffalo struggled all season and finished last at 10.5 percent. In four regular-season meetings with the Sabres, Philadelphia was 6-for-24. In the last six road games against the Flyers, Buffalo went 1-for-19.
"We like our power play," Ramsay said. "We like the guys we can put out there. We said right along, you're going to have some stretches where things aren't exactly the way you'd like them, but we believe in the people out there. Throw some pucks at the net and finally something is going to go in."
Buffalo answered with a pair of goals in the second period on Stu Barnes' rare power-play goal at 5:53 and Miroslav Satan's floater from the right faceoff circle just under seven minutes later.
"That's not the situation you want to be in -- down two goals to that club," Barnes said. "We battled back and tied it. Unfortunately, they got that late one on us."