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Sabres 3, Flyers 2, 2OT @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Daniel Briere and the young Buffalo Sabres feel like postseason veterans now.

Briere tipped in Jochen Hecht's centering pass 7:31 into the second overtime for a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series Saturday night.

Although the Sabres did squander a 2-0 lead, giving up Simon Gagne's tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, it was a strong outing for an youthful team making its first playoff appearance in five years.

"People complain about the Sabres not being an experienced team, but you play all the way into a second overtime against the Flyers with their history - it's pretty amazing," Briere said, making only his seventh career NHL postseason appearance. "I was surprised by the way we kept our composure."

The Sabres entered the game with a roster featuring a combined 295 playoff games or, in comparison, the same amount that Philadelphia's Peter Forsberg and Eric Desjardins had between them.

"The inexperience in this locker room just got a lot more experience," defenseman Brian Campbell said.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night in Buffalo.

Tim Connolly and Jay McKee also scored for the Sabres who, including the regular season, have won six straight and eight of their last nine. Rookie Ryan Miller stopped 30 shots in his NHL playoff debut.

Mike Knuble had a goal and assist for Philadelphia. Despite the loss, Robert Esche had a solid night, stopping 55 shots, delivering on coach Ken Hitchcock's decision to give him the starting job over Antero Niittymaki.

The Flyers did receive a scare when rookie R.J. Umberger was knocked woozy and had to be helped off the ice in 12 minutes into the first overtime. He was hurt when he was leveled by Buffalo defenseman Brian Campbell at the Flyers' blue line.

Hitchcock said Umberger is fine and "good to go."

Umberger was spotted in the Flyers locker room walking around without any trouble following the game.

With a delayed penalty being called against the Flyers in the second OT, Hecht got to a loose puck in the left circle of the Philadelphia zone. Circling along the left boards, he sneaked a pass into the middle, where the wide-open Briere stuck his stick out and directed the puck past a helpless Esche.

"I saw Jochen going around their player and my eyes got a little big, and I was just hoping he'd see me backdoor," said Briere, who finished with a team-record 14 shots. "I had missed enough chances already tonight. I couldn't give `Eschey' another freebie."

The Sabres made it difficult on themselves in a game they had thoroughly dominated, outshooting the Flyers 29-12 through two periods and 58-32 overall. The 58 shots broke the franchise record of 57 set April 8, 1976, in a 3-2 overtime victory over St. Louis.

"My first thought? You can't write it," Esche said, referring to the loss. "I'm focused on seven games. I'm focused on leaving this one behind."

Esche's best stop came in the first overtime when he instinctively kicked out his right pad to prevent Drury's wraparound attempt from behind the net.

Miller wasn't as busy in the Buffalo net, but he was solid when tested. His best save came six minutes into overtime when Forsberg, from behind the net, set up Gagne for a one-timer from close range.

Miller had little chance on Gagne's tying goal, which came on the power play after Toni Lydman was called for delay of game when he backhanded the puck into the second row of the stands with Buffalo inexplicably reverting into a defensive shell.

After cutting the Sabres lead to 2-1 16 minutes into the second period, Knuble appeared to tie it three minutes later but the goal was disallowed when referee Dennis LaRue correctly ruled that Knuble batted the puck in with a high stick.

"Big sense of relief," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "In these games the hockey gods have to be with you. You have to get a few bounces."

Notes: Hecht returned after missing the final seven regular-season games with a knee injury. ... Knuble has scored in nine consecutive games against Buffalo, including the regular season, and dating to when he played with Boston. ... The Sabres, who ended the regular season with two shutout victories, had their shutout streak end at 178 minutes.

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