BUFFALO -- Who is kidding whom: It was only a matter of time, really, before the Philadelphia Flyers returned to their nasty core.
An Mike Richards elbow to the head of Sabres pest Patrick Kaleta at the end of the second period started it and three separate bouts at the end of Wednesday's 1-0 Sabres win at a fired up HSBC Center confirmed it:
The series, now tied at two as it heads back to Philly for Game 5, is showing signs of going all UFC on us.
"It looks like they want a street fight," Flyers defenceman Sean O'Donnell said. "That's what gives them the best chance."
The ugliness began when Richards got a five-minute major for decking the hard-charging Kaleta. The Sabres failed to add to their lead over the lengthy power play, but the Flyers were wound up the rest of the way and frothing afterward.
"They are allowed to get away with murder out there," said Richards, who has just one point through four games of the series.
"I saw (Kaleta) take a couple of strides at me and I had to protect myself because I knew (the refs) weren't going to call anything."
The view was predictably different in the other room -- not to mention among the giddy sellout crowd at the HSBC Arena who got the bonus bouts to go with their 1-0 win.
"I'm all for hitting and clean hits, whatever," Kaleta said. "Words are words. Learn from the game and move forward."
You can bet the Flyers won't go so peacefully in Game 5, especially in front of a rabid home crowd burning for some Friday Night Fights.
Former Leaf Kris Versteeg had enough of Kaleta when he was with Toronto and teed up this assessment: "He's a dangerous player out there when it comes down to it. You never know if he's going to run you from behind or hit you without the puck."
How big is scoring the opening goal? Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has been preaching about it all week. With Jason Pominville breaking through for his first of the playoffs and the lone goal Wednesday, the team that has scored first in all four games has won. Each of the four has also been decided by one goal, excluding the Flyers' empty-netter in Game 3.
"It really changes the approach the other team has to take if you're chasing the lead all the time," Ruff said. "You make mistakes by trying to be aggressive, you put yourself in a tough spot."
Around the rink
He may be one of the all-time homer announcers but that's Ric Jeanneret's job. And he's also one of the most entertaining. The Sabres replay his call in the arena after every goal here and there was a good one Wednesday after Pominville's goal to finish a pretty three-man passing play. "Tic-tac-toe, 1-0 Buffaloooooooo," Jeanneret wailed ... Say this about Buffalo fans, they are nothing if not loyal. Despite the weather outside feeling more like Bills season, an estimated 5,000 of them gathered outside the Arena to watch the game on a pair of big screens ... And talking about homers, how about the Philly broadcaster who preceded his post-game interview with Richards in the Flyers dressing room by bellowing this beauty: "None of us agreed with the call ..."
For years NHLers have felt the pain of running into towering Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara. While Sabres blueliner Tyler Myers doesn't have the beef of Chara, he's obviously pretty solid as Jeff Carter found out. Both players went to the locker room after their first-period collision but Carter didn't return after suffering a lower-body injury which the team said afterward has him day to day ... Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was as fired up as his players, slamming the door on the player's bench when the buzzer sounded. "Just closing it," Laviolette said tersely afterwards ... Sabres goalie Ryan Miller isn't going to have any of Flyers pest Daniel Carcillo running through his crease. Miller almost clocked him with a wild left hook in the second period. Carcillo then tried to charge Miller before being tackled by Buffalo defenceman Mike Weber.
Watching Flyers' defenceman Chris Pronger in the mornings here, you get the impression he can move into the lineup any night now, most likely when the Flyers decide they need him bad enough. In other words, if it comes down to an elimination game, expect him back. At the Flyers' morning skate on Wednesday, Pronger was participating fully including one-time shots from the point. "I can't shed absolutely any light on (Pronger's return,)" Laviolette said. "Not allowed." Let's go with a prediction of no later than Game 6 ... After the game, Pronger showed he is still very much the leader of his team, moving around the dressing room to discuss specific plays with a handful of players ... The Flyers haven't had much production from Richards yet with just an assist through four games but the captain has been battling a nasty head cold for more than a week now ... Though he went missing for times during the regular season, Myers has been making an impact in this series, especially the past two games.