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Balanced attack powers Flyers past Sabres

by Mike G. Morreale
PHILADELPHIA -- It hasn't taken defenseman Sean O'Donnell long to figure out what makes the Philadelphia Flyers and their rabid fans tick.

O'Donnell didn't register a single point in Philadelphia's biggest offensive night of the season, but certainly got the engines started in the Flyers' 6-3 win on Tuesday night when he engaged in a fight with Buffalo's Cody McCormick to the delight of the hometown faithful midway through the opening period.

Six different players scored goals for the Flyers and rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside a personal-high 32 shots.

O'Donnell, who signed with the Flyers this past summer, did his part in a different way.

"Once they scored and I saw who was on the ice, I didn't want to take a penalty or do anything silly, but if there was a chance to do something to help get the bench going or get the crowd going, I was going to try it," O'Donnell said. "Guys can contribute in different ways and I felt that the time was right to try and do something. It worked out well."

The Flyers (4-4-1), who drew the ire of coach Peter Laviolette following a lackluster 2-1 loss at Columbus on Monday, broke open a 1-1 game with second-period goals by Nikolay Zherdev, Darroll Power and Claude Giroux. They also dominated physically, outhitting the Sabres 24-12.

Buffalo grabbed a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Thomas Vanek at 8:54 of the first. But O'Donnell stirred up his bench and the crowd of 19,361 when he went toe-to-toe with McCormick 51 seconds later

Laviolette felt O'Donnell's fight turned the momentum in Philadelphia's favor.

"I thought the momentum switched around then," Laviolette said. "We were sluggish in the first five minutes of the first and that seemed to be the turning point there. It seemed to bring a little energy to the building, a little energy to the bench and we were able to play better hockey."

Danny Briere eventually got the Flyers even with a power-play goal at 15:15 of the first. It was Briere's sixth goal of the season -- marking his best start since 2005-06, when he connected for seven goals in the first nine games with the Sabres.

"Even though they scored the first goal, the first two periods we played extremely well," Briere said. "We controlled the play for the most part and that was good to see. It was a little more tense around here (Tuesday morning), so it was good to see. The last 10 minutes we backed off a little bit but I think that's a little bit of human nature when you're up by four goals. Overall, it was a good game on our part."

Zherdev snapped a 1-1 tie 4:43 into the second when he snapped a shot from the bottom of the right circle past Ryan Miller for his second goal of the season and first in five games. Powe extended the lead to 3-1 when he converted a picturesque feed from Giroux off a 2-on-1 the slot. Giroux gave the Flyers a three-goal lead at 14:36 when he beat Paul Gaustad on a right-circle draw before firing a shot that deflected off the left skate of Buffalo's Mike Grier in the slot and past a helpless Miller.

The Flyers were a completely different team than the one that lost to the Blue Jackets on Monday.

"The guys were frustrated in Columbus and we weren't having fun playing," Giroux said. "We were more disciplined and playing hard. We came out flat, but Sean picked a great time to get a fight going. The guys started playing after that … it was a turning point in the game."

Carter's tip-in of Mike Richards slap shot from the right circle on a 5-on-3 power-play just 38 seconds into the third gave the Flyers a seemingly safe 5-1 lead and capped a big bight for their previously struggling power play. It was Philadelphia's third goal of the game with the extra man -- matching the team's total in its eight previous games. The Flyers entered the game an uncharacteristic 25th in the League with an 8.6 percent (3-for-35) power-play efficiency; they haven't finished lower than sixth in the League with the man advantage over the past three seasons.

"Nothing changed on the power play (on Tuesday)," Carter said. "We have just been working on it. We haven't changed it in three years. It was something that we pressed, just tried to get some shots and were lucky to get a few tonight."

Despite the deficit, the Sabres refused to go away.

Buffalo pared the margin to 5-2 on a power-play goal at 7:10 when Tyler Myers scored his third of the season, firing a slap shot from the right point that beat Bobrovsky to the short side. Defenseman Steve Montador narrowed the deficit to two goals at 12:32 on a hard shot from the high slot that caught Bobrovsky leaning to his right. It was Montador's first goal of the season.

Buffalo pulled Miller (28 saves) late in the game to get the extra attacker and appeared to pull within 5-4 with 1:10 remaining when Vanek put the puck in the net off a scramble. But referee Mark Joannette ruled the puck was kicked into the net. Bobrovsky made 13 saves in the final 20 minutes and Andreas Nodl then hit into an empty net with 36 seconds remaining.

The Sabres (3-6-1) entered the game having won three of four on the road this season while averaging a 37-23 advantage in shots. Miller, who sported a 2.75 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 18 previous appearances against Philadelphia, made 28 saves and fell to 3-5-1 on the season.

"I've got to make some saves; bail guys out once in a while," Miller said. "Mistakes are made, you just move on from them. I think we've taken everything really hard right now because we've had a few losses to start the season. Instead of rolling with the punches we get one mistake or one bad thing happens and the roof caves in and the world's ending. It takes us a little too long to get our composure back.

"We just have to be better about rolling with it. It's going to be up and down but it's an 82-game season. We've got to make our adjustments or else it's going to just be 82 games. You've got to adjust, you've got to be tough and you've got to roll with it."

The Sabres grabbed a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Vanek at 8:54 of the opening period, but the Flyers got even on a power-play goal of their own when Briere jammed home his team-leading sixth of the season.

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