April 29, 2006
Flyer answers the bellUmberger helps Philly get even
By MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun
PHILADELPHIA -- His disfigured nose remains slightly swollen.
There are faint welts under his eyes, souvenirs from his run-in with that Mack truck in the Buffalo Sabres jersey.
But less than a week after his face resembled hamburger, a smiling R. J. Umberger had the last laugh last night.
Knocked woozy by a bone-crushing hit from the Sabres' Brian Campbell six days ago, Umberger has elevated his Philadelphia Flyers back to Square 1 in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final.
Thanks to Umberger's deciding goal midway through the third period, the Flyers and Sabres are tied at two games apiece after Philly's 5-4 victory in front of 20,092 at the Wachovia Center.
Maybe now, Umberger wonders, the questions about having his marbles scrambled by Campbell finally will stop.
Maybe, he hopes, the media can focus on something other than the image of his motionless torso being scraped off the ice at the HSBC Arena last Saturday.
"You guys can finally stop showing replays of that hit," Umberger said jokingly. "I was getting tired of watching it all the time. Now you can show the goal."
As Umberger addressed a huge sea of reporters, superstar Peter Forsberg was holding court with another scrum of cameras and microphones on the other side of the Flyers dressing room.
While Umberger has supplied the heart to draw the Flyers back to even in the series, it has been Forsberg's legs that have carried his teammates.
Peter The Great has lived up to his nickname, racking up two goals and an assist in each of the past two games. Despite being the faster team, the Sabres have no answer when it comes to stopping him.
Yet despite his heroics, Forsberg was happiest for Umberger, who has gone from the lowest low to the highest high.
"With everything he has been through, having him come through in such a crucial part of the game was great," Forsberg said, nodding in the direction of Umberger. "It means a lot because it represents the character this team has."
The character of the Sabres, meanwhile, suddenly has become a question mark.
Remember when the Sabres looked to have this thing in the bag after Game 2, an 8-2 pasting of the Flyers on Monday night that put Buffalo up 2-0 in the series?
Time to pull out the brooms, some thought. The smell of sweep was in the air.
Then the series moved to Philly. Suddenly everything changed.
Now the concerns no longer revolve around the plodding Flyers.
Now it is the Sabres and, specifically, goalie Ryan Miller, who must regroup.
Miller made one of his few mistakes of the series at the worst time, allowing Umberger's stoppable shot to squeeze between his arm and body.
It could prove to be the turning point of the series, although Miller refuses to look at it that way.
"This is bigger than just one play," Miller said. "Besides, I thought I played well up until that point."
Miller's Sabres return home to Buffalo for Game 5 tomorrow where they won the first two games of the series and made the Flyers appear as if they were treading in quicksand.
But with his team now on a roll, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock doesn't want to hear any more of this guff about his team not being able to keep up with the speedier Sabres.
"I think that's horse(bleep)," Hitchcock said.
After all, the Sabres can't seem to catch Forsberg, can they?