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Flyers Tie Series at Two Games Apiece

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia, PA – Peter Forsberg had three points and R.J. Umberger gave the Flyers the lead for good as Philadelphia evened its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night with a 5-4 victory.

With the game tied 3-3 in the third period, Umberger's first goal of the playoffs put Philadelphia ahead. On a three-on-two rush Umberger took the puck across the blue and fired it himself, and it trickled through goaltender Ryan Miller at 9:51.

Philadelphia nursed that lead until late in the game, when Forsberg tallied his second goal into an empty net from center ice with less than a minute to play. A shorthanded breakaway goal by Mike Grier with 18 seconds left made the sellout crowd nervous at the end, but the Flyers held on to tie the series at two games apiece.

Game Five shifts back to HSBC Arena on Sunday (2:00 p.m., NBC).

"It's the best of three now. We did our job at home," said Ken Hitchcock after the game. "We have to win in their building. We have to deposit this game in the bank as quickly as we can because it's a short turn around with an afternoon game on Sunday."

"We worked ourselves back in the game, guys like Umberger got us going," said Forsberg. "We tried to create a little more tonight, had some chances and played pretty well."

Umberger, whom many thought would not return after a crushing hit in Game One, joked with the media after the game.

"I've seen that hit enough. So you guys can stop showing that, and show the goal over and over now," he said.

Philadelphia erased an early two-goal deficit and took the lead in the third period. While on the power play, Petr Nedved was left alone in the slot and wristed in a pass from Freddy Meyer at 3:50.

Buffalo came right back with a power play goal of its own. On a four-on-three, Daniel Briere was able to whack the puck past Robert Esche trying to protect the post and tie the game at 6:17.

The Sabres scored the first goal of the game for the fourth straight time, when Thomas Vanek got the shaft of his stick on a shot by Rory Fitzpatrick at 2:34 on the power play.

Later, a shorthanded breakaway by Grier was stopped by Esche midway through period, but Daniel Briere stepped out of the box and broke free for a breakaway of his own. Esche made the save with his left pad, but a sliding Eric Desjardins went plowing into the crease at 10:10. Referee Mike Leggo ruled it a goal despite the goal light never going on, while replays were inconclusive making it a 2-0 lead for the Sabres.

Desjardins got one back for Philadelphia on a great set up by Forsberg. Forsberg circled behind the net, around the zone and back where he started before passing back out to the point for a slap shot by Desjardins that sailed past Ryan Miller at 12:13.

Forsberg tied the game at 3:26 of the second period. Joni Pitkanen attempted a centering pass, but the puck was tipped out to the high slot before Forsberg blasted it in.

"He is having fun at this time of year," said Hitchcock of Forsberg. "When you're a veteran player who has been through the postseason to the end, as many times as he has, you know how hard it is and you know what you have to store in your tank to play hard at this time of year."

"He is the type of player that can take over games," said Desjardins. "He has the talent and the presence when he is on the ice, and he takes charge."

Although there were no more goals in the period, there was plenty of action as both teams tried to get the go-ahead goal before the break.

Derek Roy was awarded a penalty shot with 7:19 left in the period, after a questionable hit on Forsberg led to his breaking free shorthanded. Roy went to his backhand on the shot, missing the net.

Forsberg was clearly targeted by the Sabres, who clearly wanted to get physical with the man leading Philadelphia in the series.

Simon Gagne had a chance after Roy but was hauled down by Fitzpatrick at 14:30 while charging the net. The fans called for a penalty shot of their own, but Fitzpatrick was sent to the box for tripping and the Flyers failed to score on the power play.

Philadelphia finished 1-for-8 with the man advantage allowing the two shorthanded goals, while Buffalo was 2-for-4 as all of its goals came on special teams.

"I like to think that our team is capable of handling whatever is thrown at us," said Esche, who finished with 26 saves. "We've been doing it all year. I think that's one of the main reasons we prevailed today, because we faced so much adversity this season."

The Sabres were without defenseman Teppo Numminen, who went back to Buffalo early due to an upper body injury. … Philadelphia played the same lineup it did on Monday, with Donald Brashear, Ben Eager and Turner Stevenson all scratched. … Hitchcock used a timeout with 12:25 left in second period after an icing call in which his players had been on the ice for an extended period of time. … The Flyers are 12-5 all-time when a best-of-seven series is tied at two games apiece.
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