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BUFFALO — Ville Leino scored 4:43 into overtime and Brian Boucher’s return in yet another relief appearance sparked the Philadelphia Flyers to force Game 7 in their first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres.
Danny Briere scored twice and Boucher stopped 24 shots over the final two periods and overtime in a 5-4 victory Sunday in what’s been a tightly contested and topsy-turvy series that heads to the deciding game at Philadelphia Tuesday.
Boucher took over to start the second period after Michael Leighton allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced. Scott Hartnell had a goal and assist and James van Riemsdyk also scored for the Flyers, who overcame a two-goal deficit while drawing upon Chris Pronger’s presence.
The gritty defenseman played sparingly in his game after missing 21 with a broken right hand.
Thomas Vanek scored twice for Buffalo, while Rob Niedermayer and Nathan Gerbe also scored.
Kris Versteeg helped set up Leino’s goal. After getting his first shot blocked, Versteeg gained the rebound and flipped the puck at the Sabres net, bouncing it off several players. The puck fell in the crease where Leino — a step ahead of defender Chris Butler — slid it into the open side behind diving goalie Ryan Miller.
Rebounding from a pair of losses, the Flyers became the first team in the series to win after giving up the game-opening goal. It was also a game that Philadelphia didn’t lead until Leino scored.
Hartnell forced overtime by scoring with 9:17 left in a frantic third period, in which the Flyers outshot the Sabres 14-6. Nikolay Zherdev started the play by driving up the right side and getting a shot off that Ryan Miller stopped. Mike Richards got to the loose puck and fed it across to his left to Hartnell, who shoveled it in the open side.
Philadelphia’s hopes appeared done after falling behind 3-1 in the first period.
And coach Peter Laviolette had opened himself to second-guessing after going with Leighton, who became the third Flyers goalie to start a game this series. Leighton earned the start after stopping 20 shots in replacing Boucher in a 4-3 overtime loss on Friday.
It came after Boucher allowed three goals on the first 11 shots.
Boucher got his second chance and his return at the start of the second period sparked the Flyers as van Riemsdyk and Briere scored 7:54 apart to tie the game. The comeback was reminiscent of the Flyers scoring three consecutive goals Friday.
This time the Sabres struck back in regulation, with Gerbe scoring with 3:51 left in the second period — and after the Flyers had killed off Buffalo’s 70-second two-man advantage.
Driving across the Flyers blue line, and with four defenders back, Gerbe fired a 35-footer that hit off defenseman Sean O’Donnell’s stick and beat Boucher on the glove side.
Boucher was otherwise sharp. He made a sliding save to his left to foil Drew Stafford’s shot from the right circle on a 2-on-1 break early in the third period.
Miller kept the Sabres in the game in facing 45 shots — one short of matching the most he’s faced in a playoff game.
Pronger had a negligible impact on the ice as his playing time was limited solely to the power play.
He didn’t get his first shift until 10:05 into the game and the Sabres ahead 2-0. Pronger also took an undisciplined slashing penalty while the Flyers had a two-man advantage. After being crosschecked from behind by Tyler Myers in front of Sabres net, Pronger spun around and whacked the Buffalo defenseman.
He finished with only five shifts and 4:33 of ice time.
Predators 4, Ducks 2
NASHVILLE — Nick Spaling scored his second goal of the game at 4:53 of the third period and the Nashville Predators closed out their first postseason series victory to advance to the Western Conference semifinals, beating the Anaheim Ducks.
Steve Sullivan scored a goal, David Legwand had an empty-netter and Jordin Tootoo assisted On Spaling’s goals. The Predators won the series 4-2 in their sixth postseason in seven seasons.
Jason Blake scored a power-play goal, and Teemu Selanne also had a goal for the Ducks. Anaheim looked tired early after blowing a lead late before losing Game 5 in overtime. They looked tired late as coach Randy Carlyle went heavily with his top two lines trying to rally.
Anaheim lost in the opening round for the third time in seven playoffs.
Spaling scored his first two goals in the postseason. His second came off a rebound of Tootoo’s shot, shortly after Nashville thought it had gone ahead only to have Patric Hornqvist’s goal waived off because of a high stick. The call was upheld after a length video review
The Ducks didn’t go away easily, not with a power-play unit that has been the NHL’s best this postseason. They got the man advantage almost midway through the period when Mike Fisher was penalized for tripping.
But Selanne hit a post, and Pekka Rinne stopped Blake late to protect the lead. Nashville, the team built around its defense, finished off the win.
BLACKHAWKS 4, CANUCKS 3
CHICAGO — Ben Smith scored on a rebound at 15:30 of overtime and the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks beat Vancouver to force a seventh game
The Canucks, with the NHL’s best record during the regular season, have lost three straight after it appeared they were in control of the series. Game 7 is tomorrow night in Vancouver.
Smith, a rookie, followed in a long, hard shot from the point by teammate Niklas Hjalmarsson that bounced off goalie Roberto Luongo.
Luongo didn’t start the game but was called upon in the third period when Cory Schneider had to be helped off the ice when he was injured as he tried to stop Michael Frolik’s penalty shot that tied it at 3.