Desperation comes in all shapes and sizes. It wears many colors. Sometimes, we now know, it is played out to the accompaniment of circus music.
After losing Game 1 of their opening round playoff series to the Buffalo Sabres, losing Game 1 at home in a 1-0 shutout, the Flyers' predicament was pretty plain. And what ensued on Saturday evening at the Wells Fargo Center was nothing short of wild. The first period alone featured six goals and 10 penalties. By the latter stages of the second period, there was talk that a sufficient of penalty box transactions might take place to mandate a second page on the official score sheet -- bad for the environment in 2011 but a once-a-week phenomenon in 1971.
There were altercations. There were goal reviews. There was the sight of Flyers center Claude Giroux laughing in the face of Buffalo's 5-foot-5 forward, Nathan Gerbe, as Gerbe tried to rough him up. And, perhaps most meaningfully, there was a switch in the midst of the first period carnage from Sergei Bobrovsky to Brian Boucher in the Flyers' goal.
Oh, and the Flyers won, 5-4.
They took control of things, finally, by scoring twice in a 2-minute span in the second half of the second period. First, Ville Leino scored a power play goal, breaking an 0-for-11 streak with the man advantage dating from the start of the series. Then, Danny Briere niftily redirected a shot by Scott Hartnell past Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller.
That made it 5-3. The Flyers had a half-dozen power plays in the second period, including almost 2 minutes total with a 5-on-3 advantage, and then -- predictably enough -- had to kill off a series of penalties in the third period. Buffalo scored once on a deflection by Cody McCormick at 6:12, and there were several stretches where the Sabres appeared to be poised to tie it up.
But Boucher was very good, and that was that. And now Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has something to think about for next time.
The Sabres return home for Game 3 on Monday night having accomplished what they needed to accomplish. As for the Flyers, well, it is hard to know what they accomplished -- other than the avoidance of an 0-2 hole in the series, which would have been a disaster.
Truth be told, they might have played better in the game they lost. There are no style points in the playoffs, true enough. The series is tied and we all will move forward from there. Getting the win on Saturday was paramount, and the Flyers got it, and that is the ultimate truth.