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Kids come through for Sabres

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Kids come through for Sabres
Buffalo got big contributions from some of its youngest players in Friday’s 4-3 overtime win at Philadelphia in Game 5.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Wells Fargo Center can be one of the League's louder, tougher arenas to play in, and when you add in the Flyers' fast, physical style of play, it can make for a long night for young players, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

However, the Sabres' biggest contributors in their 4-3 overtime victory here in Game 5 Friday were some of their youngest players.

Rookie forward Tyler Ennis, 21, scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner; defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, 24, scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal; defenseman Mike Weber, 23, fired the shot that led to Ennis' goal and was a plus-1 in 18:18 of ice time; and defenseman Tyler Myers, 21, played a game-high 27:48, quarterbacked the power play and set up Gragnani's goal.

"I think if you want to go deep, you need that," forward Thomas Vanek said of the play of the team's youngsters. "They were good for us all year long, and at certain points of the game and series, we need everyone. We can't just play veterans and whatever and I think the real key play and winning goal was Weber, he had his head up and what a good shot; he didn't try to go top shelf and miss the net, he made a smart play and Ennis was just driving the net."

The biggest play was made by Ennis, who went to the right post and was in perfect position to bang the rebound of Weber's shot from the left point past goaltender Michael Leighton 5:31 into overtime.

"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."

Ennis also scored the game's first goal. The 5-foot-9, 157-pounder shrugged off a check by 6-foot-2, 203-pound Nikolay Zherdev along the left wall in the Flyers' end and fired a shot on net that snuck past goalie Brian Boucher just 2:24 into the game.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has been looking for his best offensive players to start making contributions in the series, and that list included Ennis, who was fourth on the team in the regular season with 20 goals and 49 points, but until Game 5 had just 1 assist in the series.

"It puts a smile on your face as a coach because I thought Ennis was tremendous tonight," Ruff said. "You are going to one of the toughest buildings and one of the loudest to play in. That kid played fearless and hard and started from the first shift. If anyone deserved the game-winning goal it would probably be him, but our young guys have to be given credit because they haven't been in this situation before."

Ennis said the youthful enthusiasm helped the team heading into overtime.

"I think everyone was really excited," he said. "I know I was. I haven't been in too many NHL (playoff) overtime games. I was in one last year, I think double-overtime against Boston. I know I just wanted to score the winner. I wanted to be that guy to score it.

"Maybe the veteran guys were a little more calm and the younger guys were maybe a little more excited, but it's just fun, for sure."

As young as Ennis and his teammates may be, they're experienced enough to know there's still work to be done before they can make plans for the second round.

"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 akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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