The game wasn’t pretty, but it’s what the Flyers needed; a win.
Lacking consistency in net, the Flyers fought back from a 3-1 deficit after the first period and found a way to force the game to overtime with a Scott Hartnell third period goal setting up the deciding marker by Ville Leino in overtime to win 5-4.
Danny Briere had two goals and Mike Richards had two assists while Brian Boucher got the win making 24 saves on 25 shots after relieving Michael Leighton to start the second period.
Sunday’s game started off eerily similar to Friday’s Game 5. Two easily saveable shots led to a Buffalo lead in the first period. A wrist shot from Rob Niedermayer and a boucing puck that was redirected by Thomas Vanek gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead only 8:41 into the game.
Keeping the game close, Briere scored the first of his two goals just over six minutes after Vanek’s tally. Crashing the net, Briere grabbed the puck in front and roofed it over a sprawled out Ryan Miller to cut the deficit to one.
Unfortunately, the Flyers saw the deficit expand just before the end of the first period. With the man advantage, Vanek made Leighton look foolish with a between-the-legs shot that found the netminder’s five-hole to put the lead back at two with just 33 seconds left.
Opening the second period, the Flyers found just what they needed in a quick goal from James van Riemsdyk. Claude Giroux won a faceoff that dribbled out to the slot where JVR slammed home a slap shot 49 seconds into the period moving the Flyers within one.
By the middle of the second, the Flyers had clawed their way back to a tie. As Jordan Leopold sat in the box for holding, Briere scored his second goal on the night with a shot through traffic from the inner edge of the left circle 8:43 into the period for a 3-3 contest.
That tie didn’t hold up too long, as the Flyers cancelled out hard work on the penalty kill just to watch Nathan Gerbe give Buffalo a 4-3 lead late. After killing off 1:09 of 5-on-3, Gerbe pulled up to the top of the circles and ripped a wrist shot that fooled Boucher 12 seconds after the penalty’s expiration.
The Flyers were left with 20 minutes to salvage their season. With the season on the line, who do the Flyers turn to? Hartnell.
Grabbing the puck in the slot from Richards, Hartnell slammed home the game-tying goal with 9:17 left in regulation– beating a Sabres defenseman and an out-of-position Miller.
Fortunately for Philly, they were on the winning side on this warm Spring holiday.
Kris Versteeg had his initial shot blocked on the right wing, but he recouped and lifted another chance high on Miller’s blocker side. The puck managed to hit Richards in front, then slide beyond Miller’s reach to the right side where Leino was waiting. Finally putting a stick on the puck, Leino put it over the goal line to tie the series at three with a 5-4 overtime win.
Goaltending was an issue yet again tonight. Last game, Boucher tripped up and Leighton had to fill in. Tonight, Leighton tripped up and Bouher had to fill in. Hopefully on Tuesday, Boucher starts off the game similar to how he finished the game tonight.
Notes: Through the first period Sunday, the Sabres had outscored the Flyers by a gaudy 18-2 margin in 140 minutes worth of Game 6s (8-0 in 2001, 7-1 in 2006)…This is the Flyers first overtime win in a Game 6 since Simon Gagne’s goal in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay…Despite being out scored 3-1 in the first period, the Flyers out shot the Sabres 17-8. Mike Weber was a minus-3 on the day.