2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 5 - Buffalo 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT) – Sabres lead series, 3-2
While the defending Stanley Cup champions are facing elimination in one Game 6, the defending Eastern Conference champions are also staring at the prospect of an early playoff exit in another Game 6.
Tyler Ennis scored a game-winning, series-shifting goal off a rebound 5:31 into overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres an unexpected victory over the Broad Street Bullies and, more importantly, a 3-2 lead in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
While the Chicago Blackhawks face a 3-2 series deficit against the Vancouver Canucks in a stiff test of their Stanley Cup title defense, the Flyers have been newly thrust into a series deficit. If Philadelphia can’t manage to win a Game 6 in Buffalo, the second seed’s hopes of returning to the Stanley Cup Finals will be extinguished before the second round of the postseason.
Buffalo got off to a hot start with three first period goals. Ennis’s first goal was scored just 2:24 into the game and then at the 3:51, Thomas Vanek added another goal to give Buffalo an early two-goal lead in a hostile environment in Philadelphia. The Sabres also added a power play goal in the first period. Marc-Andre Gragnani scored at the 15:36 mark and ended the night for the Flyers starting goaltender Brian Boucher, who was truly bad on each of the three scores Buffalo registered in the period. Boucher kept doing doubletakes after pucks beat him at bad angles from odd directions. Boucher allowed pucks to sneak through tight windows of space, and he allowed Buffalo players to bank the puck off him from behind the net. Flummoxed and thoroughly frustrated, Boucher lost the winning edge that has made him such a valuable netminder for coach Peter Laviolette in recent years.
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However, Philly was able to turn to another familiar face between the pipes. Michael Leighton, who relieved an injured Boucher and carried the Flyers to the East finals last season, was able to step into the net and stonewall Buffalo for two full periods. The second and third periods belonged to the Flyers, who made yet another one of the large-scale rallies that have defined this wild week of hockey action.
James van Riemsdyk got the home team on the board with a goal at the 8:12 mark of the second period, and then Andrej Meszaros added another goal at the 9:57 mark to give Buffalo a one goal lead after 40 minutes of hockey. Danny Briere tied the score at 3 for Philadelphia with a goal just 3:36 minutes into the third period, and when neither team could break the tie in regulation, overtime arrived. Philadelphia had all the momentum heading into extra time, but all it takes is one play to win a game, and it was the seventh seed that produced it.
In overtime, Buffalo’s Mike Webber fired a slap shot that knocked off Leighton's pad. Ennis swooped in from the right side and scored his second goal of the game in appreciably clean fashion. The Flyers’ defense let down its guard for one moment, and in a flash, the Flyers were officially transported to the place they inhabited a year ago against the Boston Bruins. Their backs are officially up against the wall and they must win two more games to advance. But first things first, a must-win game in Buffalo looms for a team that will once again have to win an elimination game in springtime.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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