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Briere standing tall for Flyers

There's something that prompts certain athletes to snap to attention when the bright lights go on, something that allows them to seize the big moments and to rise above the pressure rather than wilt under it.

There's something that prompts certain athletes to snap to attention when the bright lights go on, something that allows them to seize the big moments and to rise above the pressure rather than wilt under it.

It's high time to report that Danny Briere is a member of that special club.

Briere has eased the loss of injured Jeff Carter and fueled the Flyers' comeback from a deficit of three games to none to Friday's deciding Game 7 in Boston with a team-high four goals and four assists. His eight points in the Eastern Conference semifinals are tied for the team high with captain Mike Richards.

This is no aberration. During his career, the 33-year-old right wing has 71 points (29 goals, 42 assists) in 74 playoff games, an average of .959 points a game, compared with his career average of .789 points a game during the regular season.

"First of all, he's talented," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday, little more than 12 hours after Briere scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in Wednesday's 2-1 win. "There's a God-given ability. And then the playoffs and the big-time moments bring out the best in certain people. Or not. Maybe it doesn't. But in him it seems to.

"He's always produced when our backs have been up against the wall with no [Simon] Gagne, no Carter in the middle. A guy like Danny Briere has stepped up and really contributed offensively."

Physically, Briere is far from imposing. Slightly built at an exaggerated 5-foot-10 and with boyish looks amplified by a whiter shade of pale, he could easily pass as a college freshman. But he easily navigates through dangerous situations with his speed and skill, and he is not easily cowed. One of the more comical scenes in this series was Briere's giving as good as he got in a shoving match with Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' towering 6-9 defenseman.

Briere's goals have been timely. He gave the Flyers a chance to steal Game 1 by sending it into overtime with 3 minutes, 22 seconds to go in the third period. He helped the Flyers regain momentum by quickly answering a first-period goal by Boston's Mark Recchi in the 5-4 win in Game 4. Then there was his power-play goal that made it 2-0 late in the second period of Game 6.

Briere also has a sense of hockey history, and his eyes were lit up by the possibility of the Flyers' becoming an integral part of it if they complete a comeback accomplished only twice before - by the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders.

"We've battled back. We've battled hard to climb back up, and I'm proud of my teammates for fighting the way we have, even though it's almost been never done before," Briere said. "Game 7, it's a special moment and you have to embrace it, welcome that challenge, and be excited about it. But at the same time you have to channel that energy at the right time, and that's probably the biggest challenge.

"If we win, it'll be really special. It's pretty cool to be back in this series, but if we don't win then it doesn't mean much, then we haven't accomplished anything except climbing back in the series. It's all on the line."

This will be Briere's third Game 7. The first was when he was with Buffalo against Carolina in 2006, the year the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup under Laviolette. He led the Sabres with 19 playoff points (eight goals, 11 assists) that year. The second was two years ago, when the Flyers defeated Washington in overtime. That season, he led the Flyers with 16 postseason points on nine goals and seven assists.

So far this postseason, there have been three Game 7s, and the visiting team has won each time. When Briere was asked his thoughts on why the home team went down in each of those deciding games, he used the opportunity to turn up the pressure on the Bruins.

"I think there's a lot of pressure playing at home," he said. "You look at Boston blowing a 3-0 lead, and that they got booed out of their building [in Game 5]. So I expect them to come out with a lot of desperation, but there's also going to be extreme pressure on them to perform and make the right plays. They can't afford to make any mistakes because things can turn on them pretty quick."

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