Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 6:27 p.m. Updated: 8:33 p.m.
By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
BUFFALO, N.Y. Danny Briere was at his locker upset between periods when he popped off.
The Flyers had battled back from Michael Leightons horrific start to make it a 4-3 hockey game going into the third period.
It was good to get him up, coach Peter Laviolette said. He was fired up. He said he wasnt ready for it to end. Its not time. People listened to that. And then he backs it up with the way he plays.
Briere and his mates backed it up. Then again, thats the thing about the Flyers. Their resiliency to never quit.
Do you believe in Game 7 redemption? Can you forgive coach Laviolette for making your Easter Sunday miserable with his choice to start Leighton in Game 6 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the Buffalo Sabres?
If you answered yes to both questions, then show up Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center for Game 7.
Ville Leinos rebound goal at 4:43 of overtime capped a furious comeback at HSBC Arena as the Flyers stunned the Sabres, 5-4, to even the series at three wins apiece.
Nothing daunts these guys; its just like last year, said club chairman Ed Snider. You can never count these guys out. Ive never seen guys like this.
A funny thing about Leino: Near the end of regulation, he fell down on Brieres pass at the net on an odd-man rush.
On that shift, I made a dangerous play out there and I wanted to make up for it in overtime, Leino said. When you miss a goal or opportunity, you want to give back something for the team. I got a good bounce there.
Mike Richards was going to the bench as the Flyers had a 4-on-3 rush that began the overtime winner.
Kris Versteeg made a good play to hold onto the puck and I just threw it at the net, Richards said. It was nice to get a lucky bounce. It went off my stick to Ville for a backdoor.
Scott Hartnells goal a little past the midway point of the third period made it 4-4. That set up the overtime.
Now, Laviolettes decision to start Leighton was easily the worst miscalculation he has made as a head coach in almost two years here. Leighton played one NHL game this season and despite the 20 saves in Game 5, he didnt look that good, leaving shots in harms way.
He unraveled in this game, yielding three goals on seven shots, including two to Thomas Vanek that put the Flyers in a 3-1 hole after one period.
The way he looked when he came up in practice, he looked good, Laviolette said of Leighton. We had him on the bench, he came in here Game 5 in a relief opportunity and continued to look good. Decisions are tough. It didnt go that way tonight for him. I still think Michael Leighton is a heck of a goaltender.
Leighton got lucky, too. Steve Montador banged one off the post that first period and when the play came back up ice, Briere cut a 2-0 deficit in half with the first of two goals.
Briere also had a power-play goal in the third period, making it 3-3.
Was this drama? Briere asked. I think I lost a couple years of my life in the game with the ups and downs and rollercoaster rides. Im getting a little old for my heart to take that kind of emotion.
That awful first period ended with the Flyers going from a 5-on-3 power play to giving Buffalo a 4-on-3 in which Vaneks second goal chased Leighton for Brian Boucher when Leighton failed to cover up at the right post.
In between that, Chris Pronger, a surprise entry working only power plays (4:33 ice time), went to the box, ruining one Flyer power play.
Boucher was outstanding off the bench with 24 saves.
I cant say enough about him, Laviolette said of Boucher. A guy who wants to start and doesnt get it. Theres a reason why he went on the bench. Because of what happened tonight where we needed someone to come off and close the door. Hes done it so many times.
He had an opportunity to come in and help his team live for another day. And he was tremendous.
Boucher was happy.
The job isnt done, he said. We want to win this series. That would be the icing on the cake, to get into the next round.
Laviolette said Boucher would start Game 7.
Fourty-nine seconds after Boucher came in to start the second period, James van Riemsdyk brought the Flyers to within one with his third goal of the series through Ryan Millers five-hole from the slot.
Brieres second goal of the game and fifth of the series on the power play tied it, 3-3, at 8:43. He is second in the league in playoff goals since the lockout with 38. Detroits Henrik Zetterberg is first (43).
Briere also has 92 points in 91 playoff games.
He was tremendous on the ice, Laviolette said of his centerman. Theres no question, you look at his playoff career, theres a reason why he averages over a point a game. Hes a big-time player.
That second period ended with the Flyers getting a marvelous 1:10 kill of a 5-on-3 Sabres power play where Boucher made four, tough saves only to give up an even strength goal to Nathan Gerbe, as Buffalo led 4-3 going into the third period.
That sparked Brieres speech.
I cant remember what it was I was a little too fired up, maybe, Briere said with a laugh.
The mood then was better than after the first period, Briere said. Weve been through that kind of adversity before. It felt better than having to come back 3-1. That was a big mountain for us to climb.
When it was 4-3, you know you can score goals on Miller. I felt the atmosphere was all right after the second period, and wed come back, and that Boosh would make the necessary stops.
Buffalos two-man advantage that second period could have been worse because Richards drilled Tim Connolly, who has a history of concussions, from behind into the glass for a two-minute boarding call that deserved five minutes.
In Game 4 here, Richards elbowed Patrick Kaleta and got a five-minute major on what should be have a minor. Afterward, Richards accused the Sabres of getting away with murder on the ice.
Miller, reacting to Richards hit on Connolly, thinks Richards should be suspended for Game 7.
Id like to add one thing, Miller said. If Mike Richards thinks were getting away with murder, I dont know what he just got away with. Mass murder? Are we stepping up a notch? Unbelievable.
We lost a player for the rest of the game. Thats the kind of hit the league has been talking about is dangerous. They better seriously consider looking at that one. Its unbelievable.
Richards offered a no comment.
So now its onto Game 7 in South Philly.
Its draining coming back from two goals or three goals in the National Hockey League is not an easy thing to do, Laviolette said. Its a difficult thing to do. Most of the time, you cave. And when you on have to do it back to back, it becomes extraordinary.
I cant tell you how impressed I am with the resiliency. Not just today but because we had to do it two games in a row. And we almost did it Game 5. Today, it went our way.
Whose way will it go on Tuesday?
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com
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