Flyers edge Sabres in OT, force Game 7

Ville Leino’s goal at 4:43 of overtime led the Philadelphia Flyers past the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 on Sunday afternoon, forcing a Game 7 in their Eastern Conference quarter-final matchup.

Danny Briere had a pair of goals, while James van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell each added one for the Flyers.

Thomas Vanek scored two goals in the first period for Buffalo, who failed to end the series on home ice after taking a 3-2 series lead with an overtime victory on Friday night in Philadelphia.

Rob Neidermayer and Nathan Gerbe also scored for the Sabres, while Tyler Myers assisted on the first three Buffalo goals.

Ryan Miller, who has recorded two shutouts in the series, made 44 saves for Buffalo, while Brian Boucher turned aside 24 shots for Philadelphia.

Flyers goalie Michael Leighton was pulled after allowing three first-period goals and was replaced by Boucher, who allowed only one through two periods and overtime.

In Buffalo’s overtime victory on Friday, Leighton stopped 20-of-21 shots faced in relief of Boucher, who was yanked after surrendering three goals on 11 shots.

After missing the first five games of the series while recovering from right-hand surgery, Chris Pronger made his return to the Flyers lineup but played sparingly and did not register a point.

Emotions were running high early between the two clubs and a fight between Hartnell and Paul Gaustad just 1:21 in set a physical tone that would remain throughout the game.

The home side opened the scoring at 2:13 of the first, when the veteran Neidermayer placed a short-side wrist shot over the shoulder of Leighton on a 3-on-2 rush.

Buffalo stretched the lead to two at 8:41 of the first, capitalizing with the man advantage, after Daniel Carcillo took a cross-checking penalty for the Flyers.

On the goal, Vanek tipped a centring pass from Myers behind a sprawling Leighton, who appeared fooled by the puck’s rolling motion as it eluded his save attempt.

After being left unattended in front of the Sabres goal, Briere made it 2-1 at 14:53 of the second, burying a Hartnell rebound over a sprawling and helpless Miller.

Before the period was through and with another power-play chance, the Sabres recaptured their two-goal lead. Vanek took another Myers feed down low and stuffed his own rebound between the legs of Leighton, who surrendered three goals on eight shots in the first period.

The Sabres went 2-for-3 with the man advantage in the opening frame.

Pronger played only 2:29 in the first and picked up a two-minute minor for slashing in the process.

To start the second, the Flyers once again called on Boucher, and an obviously frustrated Leighton found himself parked on the bench.

Just 49 seconds into the frame, the Flyers quickly made it a one-goal game, when van Riemsdyk beat Miller with a snap shot from just above the hash marks.  After a faceoff to the right of Miller, the puck squeaked across the circle to a wide-open van Riemsdyk, who had stepped up into perfect positioning to capitalize.

Down 3-2, the Flyers kept the pressure on following the van Riemsdyk goal, and four minutes in, their relentless attack forced the Sabres to take a time out just to relieve the pressure.

Then just before the halfway mark of the second, playing with a man advantage, Philadelphia tied it at three on Briere’s second of the game. After cycling the puck around, and forcing the Sabres to collapse into their crease, Briere wired a slapshot through a crowd of bodies passed Miller.

After making several key saves, the Sabres finally solved Boucher, taking a 4-3 lead with under four minutes to play in the second. Gerbe’s wrist shot from just inside the blue-line, deflected off the stick of Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell, causing the puck to flutter and ultimately fool the Flyers goalie.

The Flyers outshot the Sabres 31-26 through two periods, but trailed by one heading into the final 20 minutes.

At 10:43 of the third, pressing after the expiration of a power play, the Flyers tied it at four.  Mike Richards chipped a cross-crease pass to Hartnell, who had Miller at his mercy, and easily slid the puck into the open net.

Leino then provided the overtime dramatics, banging home a lose puck at the side of the crease just out of the reach of a down-and-out Miller.

The Flyers, who were 2-for-26 on the power play prior to Sunday, went 1-for-5 in Game 6, while Buffalo scored twice on five attempts with the man advantage.

Game 7 will take place on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Notes: Buffalo was without forward Jason Pominville, who sustained a lower body injury in Game 5. He had one goal and three assists in the series … Jeff Carter missed his second-straight game for the Flyers with a sprained MCL in his right knee. Carter was Philadelphia’s leading goal scorer this season with 36 … Philadelphia used three goaltenders in the first five games of the series: Sergei Bobrovsky, Boucher and Leighton … Tyler Ennis scored his second goal of the game in overtime Friday, giving the Sabres a 4-3 win … Buffalo has not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since making the conference finals in 2007.