Flyers keep hope alive with OT win

Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. (REUTERS/Doug...

Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. (REUTERS/Doug Benz)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:43 PM ET

BUFFALO -- Its like a handicap really: Giving strokes in golf, starting every football drive at midfield, putting extra weight on a thoroughbred racehorse to even the field.

When the Philadelphia Flyers come to a big playoff game more often than not, it sure seems, they spot the opponent a huge advantage by whatever unreliable man they have in net.

So when Michael Leighton crapped the crease in the first period on Easter afternoon, allowing the Sabres to storm out to a 3-0 lead in front of a crazed crowd at the HSBC Arena primed to celebrate a series victory, the Flyers didn't even flinch.

Like a back-nine charge or a big run to the wire, they came back and tied it 3-3 and again at 4-4 before Ville Leino banged home a loose puck 4:43 into overtime.

The desperate surge forced a Game 7 back in Philly on Tuesday night as for the second-consecutive game, the Flyers' rallied from two goals down to force the extra period.

"Coming back from two goals or three goals in the National Hockey League is not an easy thing to do," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Most of the time you cave. When you have to do it back-to-back, it's extraordinary."

Extraordinary was just the tip of it in a game that offered so much.

This time, the Flyers' net pain came from starter Michael Leighton who allowed three goals on eight first-period shots.

That earned the man who took the team to the Stanley Cup final a year ago a spot on the bench, in favour of Brian Boucher who was the victim of hook-happy Laviolette two nights earlier.

"I wanted to get the start," Boucher said, unapologetic, afterwards. "I felt like it's been a pretty good series for myself apart from three minutes.

"From a personal standpoint, it feels good to get back in there and make the wrong right, I guess."

There were a pair of goals each from the Flyers' Daniel Briere and the Sabres' Tomas Vanek, giving both five in the series.

There was the bad blood that has come to define meetings between these two teams when Flyers captain Mike Richards pounded Sabres forward Tim Connolly head-first into the boards, ending his playoffs and prompting the Sabres to cry for a suspension.

There was the return of shutdown Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger, who played only on the power play and even then cost his team dearly with a stupid penalty that led to the third Sabres goal

And there was a highly-entertaining final nine minutes when both teams had big-time chances to end it in regulation and had the fans alternating from the edge of their seats to leaping to their feet.

"It's the entertainment business," said Briere, the former Sabre turned Sabre killer. "The fans have certainly had a good show in all six games of the series."

Laviolette praised Briere for his knack of stepping up his game when it matters most. He can be a forgettable player in the regular-season and then suddenly watch the spotlight track him. Briere snuck in alone for one goal on his old pal Ryan Miller and then blasted another from the top of the circle.

"He had good words going out for the third period, he was fired up," Laviolette said. "He didn't want it to end, he wasn't ready and people listen to that. And then he goes out and backs it up with his play. Hes a big-time player."

Perhaps the Flyers' have seen so much success coming from behind that they are fully comfortable living on the edge.

Perhaps with a 49-33 advantage in shots on goal they believe they are the better team, enough that they can prevail even with shoddy play in net putting them in a hole.

"I think we have shown heart and character from the outset of the season," said Pronger, who played just 4:33 in his first action since early March. "We've gone through a lot of adversity and always seem to come through. It happened again today."

The Sabres have displayed their share of resiliency as well, both with a late-season run just to get into the playoffs as the eventual seventh seed. But with an opportunity squandered on home ice, no less, they will need to get to the bottom of the tank one more time.

"It's unfortunate we allowed them to get to overtime," said Miller, who has had a pair of shutouts in this series. "We had a lead in the third period and didn't get the job done. That's overtime. That's the way it goes."


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