The Buffalo Sabres had the prime chance to clinch their first playoff series in four years against the Philadelphia Flyers, but a game tying third period goal and the eventual game winning goal in overtime allows a pivotal Game 7 between the two teams.
The Sabres came out flying in the first period and got out to a 3-1 lead after the first period and got the home crowd rocking. Rob Niedermayer scored the first goal on a shot that beat Flyers starting goaltender Michael Leighton over the shoulder. Thomas Vanek scored his first of two goals on the powerplay on a tip in in front of the Flyers net. Vanek's second powerplay goal came with 33 seconds left in the first period. The lone Flyers goal came off the stick of Daniel Briere, his first of two goals on the night. Flyers starter Michael Leighton was pulled after allowing three goals on the first eight shots in the first period.
After the first period, the Sabres looked outmatched for the rest of the game and essentially tried to hold on. James van Riemsdyk scored within the first minute of the period to bring the Flyers to within a one goal lead and then Briere's second goal of the night came at the 8:43 mark of the period to tie the game at 3-3. Nathan Gerbe scored on a wrist shot that beat Brian Boucher from almost the blue line. The Sabres escaped the second period with a 4-3 lead. That would be the last goal they scored though.
In the third period, Scott Hartnell scored the game tying goal with 9:17 left in the game coming off of a Flyers powerplay. Hartnell was able to get the puck from a Nikolai Zherdev pass that got Ryan Miller moving left to right and essentially out of position for the Hartnell shot. The game winning goal in overtime came off the stick of Ville Leino, a tip in goal in front of the net to give the Flyers the series tying victory.
The Flyers outshot the Sabres 49-33 in the game and pretty much dominated the offensive play for most of the game. Ryan Miller made 44 saves in the losing effort while Brian Boucher made 24 saves on 25 shots in relief of Michael Leighton.
The story of this game for Sabres fans is the boarding penalty that Mike Richards took on Tim Connolly in the second period. Before we give you our opinion, take a look at the play yourself:
Connolly did not return to the game and given his concussion history, will probably not return to the series. Richards recieved a two minute boarding penalty on the play and was a key component in the game tying goal later in the third period. The question is whether Richards will be suspended for the hit. My honest opinion is that I have no freaking clue. With the way that NHL Operations have been handing out suspensions in the playoffs, especially for hits to the head, it wouldn't surprise me that Richards may get at least a game. At this point though, do not be surprised by anything that happens.
Game 7 is Tuesday night in Philadelphia. It is a winner take all fest for the right to move onto the Eastern Conference Semifinals.