PHILADELPHIA - Derek Roy was so wide-open, it didn't look right. As it turned out, he was an extra skater.
Roy and Jason Pominville scored 18 seconds apart early in the third period to lift the Buffalo Sabres over the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Tuesday night. Pominville and Maxim Afinogenov each had two goals for the Sabres, who pulled within one point of the Flyers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
When Roy scored the decisive goal just 66 seconds into the third period, it seemed he took advantage of a costly mental lapse by Philly's defence. But Flyers coach John Stevens was furious after the game because Roy was the fifth skater during a 4-on-4. Replays clearly showed the Sabres already had four players on the ice when Roy hopped over the boards and skated to the Flyers' blue line.
"I may have left the bench a little early, but it wasn't intentional," Roy said. "I saw our guy coming to the bench and I looked away and I just jumped on the ice ... and I left early. I'll take it. I think we outplayed them in the third period, anyway."
Neither Stevens nor anyone else on Philadelphia's bench caught the mistake immediately.
"I saw it after the fact," Stevens said. "It's a totally blown call. There's no excuse after that, but that third goal is a killer and it's a totally blown call."
Buffalo ended a two-game losing streak with its second win in six games. Desperate to avoid falling five points behind the Flyers, the Sabres played like a team in a must-win situation.
Now they're right back in the playoff mix with 15 games remaining.
"You look at it, they would be up by five points if we don't win this one and now we're one point behind them," Pominville said. "I mean this is a big game and I'm definitely excited that we came up with two points but, again, tomorrow, we have another big test."
Scottie Upshall and Steve Downie scored for Philadelphia, which lost in regulation for the first time in five games.
The injury-depleted Flyers were without star centre Daniel Briere, who missed his first game this season with a sprained right shoulder. Briere was injured in a shootout loss to the Rangers on Sunday. He scored the decisive shootout goal to beat his former team in Buffalo last week and end Philadelphia's 10-game winless skid.
The Flyers already were missing all-star Mike Richards (hamstring) and two-time 40-goal scorer Simon Gagne (concussion).
After Roy scored his goal following a crisp pass from Afinogenov, Pominville tipped one in to make it 4-2. Afinogenov chased goaltender Martin Biron with his second goal less than five minutes later.
Biron allowed five goals on 18 shots against his former teammates. He's 2-2-1 against Buffalo since he was traded to the Flyers one year ago.
"We know we can play a lot better," Biron said.
Ryan Miller made 19 saves for the Sabres.
Buffalo went up 1-0 just 62 seconds in when Pominville deflected a slap shot by Henrik Tallinder past Biron.
Afinogenov made it 2-0 with a highlight-reel goal midway through the period. Afinogenov got the puck just above Buffalo's blue-line, skated down the left wing, went around defenceman Jaroslav Modry and deked Biron with a backhand-forehand move before stuffing the puck between the goalie's legs.
Upshall scored to cut it to 2-1 later in the first period.
Downie's goal off a give-and-go with Sami Kapanen tied it 2-2 in the second period.
Notes: Tallinder didn't return after he was checked into the boards by Upshall in the first period. ... Briere wasn't sure when he'd return, though it doesn't appear the injury is too serious. Briere isn't scheduled for any tests on the shoulder. "Right now, I don't know how long it's going to be," said Briere, who signed a US$52-million, eight-year contract last summer. "I'm hoping it's short and I can get back in there and help the team again." ... Pominville has at least one point in nine straight games. ... Forwards Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter are the only Flyers to play in every game this season.