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Connolly's OT goal gives Sabres 3-2 win over Flyers

by John Kreiser

With a little help from Adam Mair, Tim Connolly went from goat to hero in a little over 10 minutes

Connolly's giveaway led to Mike Richards' go-ahead goal with 8:51 remaining in regulation. But after Mair got the equalizer with just under six minutes left, Connolly scored 2:31 into overtime to give the Sabres a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night.

"It was tough but when I got back to the bench, a lot of the guys told me not to worry about it, go out there and we'll get one back," Connolly said. "Mair was able to get one back quick, and that gives you a little boost."

The Sabres moved back into first place in the Northeast Division, one point ahead of Ottawa, by winning for the first time since the Olympic break and for only the second time in their last 10 days.

Connolly could have been fitted for goat horns after he threw a careless pass that Richards intercepted in the neutral zone. The Flyers' captain raced in alone and beat Ryan Miller with a backhander for his 26th goal of the season.

But Mair got the equalizer with 5:58 remaining. Cruising into the right circle, Mair took a pass from Mike Grier before skating into the slot and sending a backhander past goalie Michael Leighton for only his third goal of the season.

"It's rebounding from your mistakes, and Tim makes very few of them on the ice," said Mair, who also had an assist on Thomas Vanek's second-period goal. "He was able to win the game for us, and that just speaks to his compete and mental ability to put things behind him and look forward."

In overtime, Leighton was able to stop Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman's shot from the left circle, but Connolly controlled the rebound in the low slot and lifted the puck up and into the net for the winner.

"If we keep playing like that, we're going to have some leads and we're going to be back to the way we need to be playing," said Miller, who finished with 27 saves.

It was the second consecutive loss for the Flyers, who had won their previous five. Coach Peter Laviolette wasn't happy about leaving HSBC Arena with only one point.

"You're up 2-1 with five minutes to go, so yeah, you need to win that game," Laviolette said after the Flyers improved to 70 points, sixth in the Eastern Conference and four ahead of the ninth-place New York Rangers. "But you look at it after it was 2-2, and (Leighton) made some big saves."

Leighton finished with 32 saves but lost for the first time in seven starts -- though he played markedly better than he did on Wednesday, when he allowed four goals before being pulled in the second period of a 7-4 loss at Florida in which he wound up with a no decision.

"Michael Leighton did a real good job and gave us an opportunity to win, but it's frustrating," Laviolette said. "Points are a hot commodity right now."

The Flyers opened the scoring when Simon Gagne scored his 10th of the season 4:01 into the second period. From in tight, Gagne was able to slip the puck past Miller after taking defenseman Lukas Krajicek's feed from the left boards.

Vanek tied it 2:13 later with his team-leading 19th of the season, banking the puck off Leighton's blocker and into the net from the left corner behind the goal line.

"It was a great game," Leighton said. "It was back and forth, and kind of like a chess game, waiting for someone to make a mistake. We could have won this game, but it didn't bounce our way."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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