PHILADELPHIA -- Kris Versteeg
called his season "a whirlwind," but it could be picking up the right kind of speed at just the right time.
Now playing for his third team in nine months, Versteeg on Friday had probably his best game with the Philadelphia Flyers
since being acquired by the team in February.
Showcasing the skill, speed and hustle that made him so desirable, he drew an assist and helped set up another goal during the Flyers' furious comeback from a 3-0 first-period deficit in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against Buffalo, though the Sabres won the game 4-3 in overtime.
Versteeg skated the puck around three Buffalo defenders to enter the Sabres' zone and then screened goalie Ryan Miller
to help Andrej Meszaros
' goal get through to make it 3-2 at 9:57 of the second.
In the third, he raced behind the Buffalo net and tipped the puck away from the Sabres' Chris Butler
. Mike Richards
got the loose puck and found Danny Briere
on the right post for the game-tying goal 3:36 into the third.
Versteeg had just 11 points in 27 games with the Flyers following his acquisition from the Toronto Maple Leafs
. He has 3 assists in five playoff games, but he believes he's playing better than the numbers might show.
"Probably coming up (to my best with the Flyers) right now," he told NHL.com. "There were little spurts here and there where I felt pretty good. At the start it was pretty tough. You're trying to come to a team and trying to make an impact. You're trying to get used to a lot of new things. Been a pretty big whirlwind for me this year. I'm trying to get down to level ground and help this team win. It's a great group of guys here and we've been having a lot of fun."
Versteeg had help in that fun Friday by playing on a line with Mike Richards
"I think we've had a lot of chemistry since Day 1," Versteeg said. "I don't think the numbers at time show it, but the plays and the chances we've had as a line have been good. Sometimes we get rewarded, sometimes we don't. Maybe that comes with being a line for just the last 15, 20 games of the season. I think it's been coming along. (Richards) is a world-class player and he makes you a better player than you are."
Versteeg also said it helps to have a coach like Peter Laviolette
on the bench. Laviolette said following the 4-3 overtime loss in Game 5 that even when his team was down 3-0 in the first period he never felt his team was going to lose.
"He's a confident coach and it definitely spreads throughout the lineup," Versteeg said. "Just puts confidence into everybody's blood. It's great to have a coach like that who can believe in you whether you're down three or up three. It's great to see that."
After winning the Stanley Cup in June with the Blackhawks – who beat the Flyers in six games -- Versteeg was traded over the summer to the Maple Leafs, who then shipped him to the Flyers. Versteeg said all that movement hasn't been easy, but he's hoping to keep this run going as long as he can.
"We have two big games ahead of us," he said. "Guys throughout the lineup are going to have to step up."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.