PHILADELPHIA -- It was W.C. Fields who famously said, "All things being equal, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis might have that saying on a poster in his house.
Ennis scored his second goal of the game 5:31 into overtime, giving the Buffalo Sabres a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. The Sabres lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 set for Sunday in Buffalo (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN, RDS). Game 7, if necessary, will be Tuesday in Philadelphia (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN).
The news wasn't all good in the first for the Sabres, who lost forward Jason Pominville with 3:09 left in the first period. He hopped off the ice with about three minutes left in the first period and was unable to put any weight on his left leg. The Sabres announced he had a lower-body injury and would not return. TSN reported he suffered a skate cut to his left leg, and he was spotted leaving the Wells Fargo Center on crutches, wearing a boot on that went from his foot to calf.
Ennis, the Sabres’ most dangerous forward all night, was alone just outside the crease when Mike Weber took a slap shot from the left point. Michael Leighton stopped the shot with his right pad, but he kicked it right to Ennis, who buried it for his second goal of the game.
"I saw it pop out," Ennis said. "I tried to get to the net. I knew (Weber) was shooting it. Just hoping he (Leighton) would kick it to me. … You just got to go backdoor sometimes, got to get to the net a little more sometimes. When I saw him shooting, sometimes the paddle deflects to that spot and it did."
It's not the first big goal Ennis has scored in Philadelphia. He scored his first NHL goal in his first game here, Nov. 14, 2009.
"It's definitely a fun place to play," he said of Philadelphia. "Pretty crazy."
Ennis’ goal negated a big comeback by the Flyers, who came back from a 3-0 first-period deficit to force overtime.
The comeback started when van Riemsdyk scored his second of the series at 8:12 of the second period. Claude Giroux sent the puck to Meszaros at the left point. He fired a shot that Miller came out to stop, but van Riemsdyk was able to sweep the rebound around Miller and into the net.
Philadelphia got within a goal on Meszaros' first of the postseason. Kris Versteeg went between two Sabres two players to take the puck into the Buffalo zone, and then set up in front of Miller. The Flyers worked the puck out high, and Miller couldn't stop Meszaros' blast from just inside the blue line to make it 3-2 at 9:57.
"In the second period I thought that everybody looked strong," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We had our best period of the night. We were hard-charging, trying to fight back in. We felt like if we could win that period, we could win the game. The guys did a really good job at unloading the tanks and getting back in."
They had enough left to tie game 3:36 into the third on Briere's third goal of the series. Versteeg's hustle set up the play, as he raced behind the Buffalo net to tip the puck away from Sabres defenseman Chris Butler. The puck bounced to Mike Richards, who threw a pass behind the net to Briere, and the former Sabre flipped a backhander over Miller from the right post.
"Kris Versteeg did a good job in keeping the puck in play," Briere said. "He was able to get it to Richie and Richie did a great job as he chipped the puck to me on the side of the net. The puck was in the air, (and) I was a little bit lucky on the goal."
The Sabres stemmed the tide, starting with a penalty kill with 2:22 left in the third period, and the momentum from that kill carried into overtime.
"I like the fact that we were able to regroup," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We started the third period real good. I think we outshot them. We gave up the one opportunity and they ended up scoring. I told the team that we need to relax and need to make plays and play in the offensive zone. I thought we made some good plays with the big kill late in the third period and I can't say enough. They have done a tremendous job to this point on the penalty kill."
The Sabres came out firing early, scoring twice in the game's first 3:51 and chasing goalie Brian Boucher after less than 16 minutes.
Ennis gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead just 2:24 into the game. He got the puck on the left side of the ice in the Flyers' zone, skated through a Nikolay Zherdev check and took a sharp-angled shot that went off Boucher's left leg and into the net.
Just 1:27 later, Vanek made it 2-0 when he scored from another odd angle. Patrick Kaleta tipped the puck behind the Philadelphia net to Vanek, who was behind the goal line on the left side when he shot the puck off Boucher's flexed left knee and into the net at 3:51.
Buffalo made it 3-0 on Gragnani's first playoff goal. The Sabres had a 4-on-3 power play following a goalie-interference penalty on Briere. Buffalo worked the puck around the perimeter, with Tyler Myers in the middle sending it to Gragnani in the right circle. The rookie defenseman’s shot went through a Vanek screen and just inside the far post at 15:36.
That ended Boucher's night after he allowed three goals on 11 shots. Leighton entered the game, becoming the third Philadelphia goalie of the series.
It's the second straight year Philadelphia has used three goalies in one playoff series -- last year in the second round against Boston, the Flyers used Boucher, Leighton and rookie Johan Backlund.
"The first one I was anticipating a pass and he shot it on net," Boucher said. "The second one, aside from maybe coming out and playing the puck before that, I don't know if I would've played that any differently. I mean, the guy banked it off me. But the first one was me anticipating a pass and he threw it on net.
"I take full responsibility for it. I put my team behind the eight-ball. It was on me. Those are goals that can't go in."
Leighton came in and stopped 20 shots in just his second NHL game of the season. His only other action came Dec. 30. Days later, he was waived and sent to the AHL.
"I've kind of been prepared the whole time," Leighton said. "When I came up here, for myself, I've been working hard, practicing, and staying ready. … I've been really working hard at practice and preparing for this situation and sure enough it comes up."
Laviolette wasn't ready to reveal anything about his goaltending plans for Game 6.
"I'm going to sleep on that and probably give you (the media) nothing," he said.
The Sabres don't plan on spending too much time celebrating their win. They know they still have a lot of work to do.
"We can celebrate this for about 20 more minutes because we have to focus on the next one," Ennis said. "We got one more."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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