Tyler Ennis isn’t a finalist for the Calder Trophy this year but for Sabres fans he’s been all the rookie they could possibly hope for this season. Tonight, he helped make a case for full-blown cult hero status after scoring two goals including the game-winner in overtime to give the Sabres a 4-3 overtime win and a 3-2 series lead.
Ennis helped the Sabres to avoid another NHL playoff meltdown as Buffalo was up 3-0 in this game after scoring three times in the first period on starter Brian Boucher. Ennis, Thomas Vanek, and Marc-Andre Gragnani each scored on Boucher to chase him out of the game after saving just eight shots. In came last year’s playoff hero Michael Leighton and the combination of Leighton and Flyers pride helped get them back into the game.
James van Riemsdyk scored 8:12 into the second period to get the Flyers on the board and 1:45 later Andrej Meszaros blasted a shot from the blue line past Ryan Miller to make it 3-2.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff then burned his timeout to settle things down and the move paid off until the third period when Daniel Briere tied the game at 3:36 of the third. While the Flyers took control of the game in the second period and through to the third, the game would head to overtime.
There, Ennis put home a big rebound from a Mike Weber slap shot to help put the Sabres over the top and roaring with emotion heading home for Game 6 on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. on NBC).
For Philadelphia, the questions about their goaltending now come roaring back again. After Sergei Bobrovsky was chased out of Game 2, Brian Boucher stood tall until tonight. Now with Leighton playing well enough through the rest of tonight’s game, the big question falls on who will start a pivotal Game 6.
Given the issues the Flyers are having defensively, having problems in goal is the last thing coach Peter Laviolette wanted to deal with. Instead, he’s seeing all the worries about goaltending come flying back in his face and awakening the ghosts of playoff failures past.
The Sabres get to avoid yet another collapse in the playoffs and getting tossed into the conversation with the likes of the Kings and Rangers. Instead, they rode out the storm and took advantage of opportunity in overtime to seal up the game. They played an outstanding first period and took advantage of some crazy bounces but those things happen when you work hard. It’s cliché, but a complete effort like that means the Sabres don’t even have to play an overtime period and they win going away. They’ll need that full effort if they want to knock the Flyers out of the playoffs on Sunday.