Marc-Andre Bourdon and Matt Read scored third-period goals to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night in the Flyers' final regular season home game of the season.
The win officially eliminated Buffalo from playoff contention -- as the Sabres needed to win out the remainder of their schedule and hope for some help with the Washington Capitals and / or Florida Panthers.
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was obviously upset, but pointed out that the damage to his club's playoff hopes had been done well before Thursday night.
"It's not fun, but we did it to ourselves well before this game," the netminder said. "We didn't put ourselves in a strong position to make playoffs so we had to chase. Not a good feeling. Pretty embarrassing."
Combined with a Pittsburgh Penguins triumph over the New York Rangers, this win locked locked the Flyers into a first-round meeting with their arch rivals from the western portion of Pennsylvania. The Flyers will open their postseason at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh next week.
"It's gonna be great," said Flyers winger Scott Hartnell. "It's gonna be a battle. It's going to be weird playing them Saturday afternoon with nothing on the line, but we want to play hard and finish the year on a winning note, especially in their building, where we got to go in there and start the series."
Philadelphia swept all four games over Buffalo this season, giving them their fifth season sweep over Buffalo and first since 2008-09.
Buffalo picked a bad time for their first regulation loss of the year when leading after two periods. They had been 25-0-2 when they led heading into the third period this season. The Flyers have a 20-21-4 record when the opponent scores first, which is the most amount of wins in that situation by any team in the NHL.
Buffalo appeared to be running on fumes after an emotional overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night and did not come out with the all-out offensive effort that was expected of them. They had several odd man rushes, including a three-on-one with just Matt Carle back, in which Buffalo failed to even come away with a shot on goal.
"We didn't finish," said Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff after the game. "Some of them didn't get shots and couple of them missed the net. The goalie made a good save on that play but too many good chances by the wayside."
After an uneventful first period in which Buffalo managed just three shots on goal, the Sabres did grab the lead. Ex-Flyer Ville Leino tucked home the rebound of a Drew Stafford shot that had hit the post behind Philly netminder Ilya Bryzgalov with 2:36 remaining in the second period to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at the second intermission.
With the outcome of their season hanging in the balance, Buffalo could not extend the margin. They would end up paying a costly price for that failure when Bourdon beat Miller with a shot from the right point early in the third to tie the game at 1-1, and Read beat defenseman Robyn Regehr along the left wing boards and drilled a shot past the goaltender with 4:21 left in regulation to give the Flyers their first lead of the night.
"I just saw (Jakub Voracek) get the puck, and he flinged it out of the zone," Read said of the sequence. "I saw a lot of ice open and I just went for it. There were a couple of lucky plays and I hit it out of the air and then the defenseman stepped up on me. I don't even know how I got by him. It was just a breakaway and I shot it and scored."
Claude Giroux recorded an assist on Bourdon's goal, his 65th of the season, which is second only to the Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin. Giroux now has 93 points for the season, which is the highest point total by any Flyer since Eric Lindros posted 93 during the 1998-99 season.
Bryzgalov (33-16-7) stopped 25 of 26 Sabres shots to snap a two-game losing streak while Miller (31-21-7) made 33 saves in a losing cause.