CLAUDE GIROUX shrugged.
"Since when did we start doing things normal here?" Giroux asked.
Easy is not a word in the Flyers' version of Merriam-Webster.
Last night, the Flyers' first 15 minutes of Game 5 went like this: three goals-against, two different goaltenders in net, and play so ugly that three times Flyers players ran into each other, skating around like chickens without heads.
And that was just the beginning.
A three-goal deficit? That's nothing. Even against Ryan Miller, a goaltender who shut out the Flyers twice in the first four games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Sabres.
Last night, the Flyers beat that three-goal hole the hard way. Their way. But in the end, it was the Sabres who had the last laugh as Tyler Ennis gave Buffalo a 4-3 win just 5 minutes, 1 seconds into overtime to scribble over what would have been a storybook ending for the Flyers.
Instead of four unanswered goals, Ennis sent the Flyers hurtling back to Buffalo for tomorrow afternoon's Game 6 in elimination mode. But it's not like the the Flyers haven't faced that before.
The Flyers were 4-1 in the Stanley Cup playoffs last season with their season hanging in the balance.
"We never do anything according to the plan," Giroux said. "I don't think there's one guy on this team that wants to be down 3-2 now. Guys just battled. But we've got to find a way to play like that for 60 minutes."
The odds are daunting. In each of the Flyers' first eight playoff matchups with Buffalo, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series.
"I feel good about our game," Danny Briere said. "We deserved to win once again, the chances were lopsided. We had a bad start, spotting them a three-goal lead and 10 shots on net."
Briere probably didn't emphasize the Flyers' bad start enough, even though most of the blame belongs in Brian Boucher's corner and not the rest of the Flyers team. Both of Buffalo's first two goals were low-percentage, must-have-in-the-playoffs shots. Boucher bobbled one puck from the corner on a shot by Ennis and the other was banked in from behind by Thomas Vanek.
Still, that wasn't what got him yanked. Marc-Andre Gragnani made that decision easy for Peter Laviolette when he connected on a power-play point shot just 15:36 into the game.
No matter how well Boucher played in Games 2, 3 and 4, it was hard to justify leaving him in net. It was the first time in Boucher's 11-year NHL career he was yanked from a playoff game as the starter.
"I put my team behind the eight ball," Boucher said. "I take full responsibility for it. It was on me. Those are goals that can't go in."
Even though they did, the Flyers didn't panic. One by one, they got them back with Leighton in net at the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since Patrick Kane ended the Flyers' parade hopes last June 9 in overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Leighton had played in only one game all season for the Flyers.
"As soon as I went in, we kind of kept the puck away from me for the first little while and I think that was important for me to get back in the rhythm," Leighton said. "Besides that, we dominated the rest of the second and third period. We played a great game."
When Ennis scored in overtime, it snapped Leighton's personal shutout streak of 3:04:31, spanning back to his last three starts in the AHL before being recalled by the Flyers on April 5 through re-entry waivers.
In reality, Leighton entered with the most razor-thin of margins for error. One more goal-against likely would have put the Flyers out of their misery, even though Leighton didn't see it that way.
"There's not really that much pressure on me," Leighton said. "It's 3-0. If they score on me, it's 4-0. It's kind of out of hand. We played a good game and battled back."
The way the Flyers battled back rekindled the magic they created last spring, jarring images of their 3-0 Game 7 and 3-0 series comeback in that epic second-round series against Boston.
Slowly but surely, the Flyers tilted the ice in the second period before James van Riemsdyk and Andrej Meszaros tallied goals within 1:45 of each other to cut Buffalo's lead to 3-2.
It was a seemingly foregone conclusion that it wouldn't take the Flyers long to knot the score in the third period, as Briere did with his third goal of the series just 3:36 into the period.
Over the final two periods and overtime, the Flyers outshot Buffalo by a total of 30-19. In all, the Flyers fired 87 pucks toward Miller: 39 on net, 29 blocked, 19 that missed the net. And at the other end, Leighton stood tall for the Flyers when it mattered most.
"We dominated that second and third period," Leighton said, "so we know we can beat this team."
The same as it was in Games 1 and 4 of this series, it is the result that matters most. The Flyers are 6-10 all-time in a Game 6 when trailing, 3-2, and they're only 2-14 in those series. The Flyers have been there before.
"We can't hang our heads," Briere said. "We were in a worse position than that last year. If there's a group of guys that can do it, I believe in this group here."
The NHL announced yesterday that the start time for a potential Game 7 at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night would be 7:30 . . . Chris Pronger did not return to the Flyers' lineup as expected, missing his 21st consecutive game with a right hand injury. He did skate in the morning skate. The Flyers have officially kept his status as "day-to-day" . . . In place of Jeff Carter, who missed the game with a lower-body injury, the Flyers dressed tough guy Zac Rinaldo instead of Ben Holmstrom. It was Rinaldo's NHL debut; he played just 1:56 . . . Buffalo lost Jason Pominville in the first period because of injury . . . Every Buffalo skater blocked at least one shot except Patrick Kaleta. *
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at
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