BUFFALO, N.Y. – Daniel Briere had plenty to smile about after scoring the clinching shootout goal in Philadelphia’s 4-3 comeback win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The forward was still celebrating in helping the Flyers snap a 10-game winless skid when he learned his team had bolstered its banged-up lineup by acquiring high-scoring Vaclav Prospal in a trade with Tampa Bay.
“That’s great,” Briere said. “We’ve been struggling lately. It just felt like things are starting to turn. … We come off the ice and have a player like Vinny Prospal to our team: That’s a lot of good news today.”
The deal was struck a day before the NHL’s trade deadline. The Flyers sent the Lightning minor-league defenceman Alexandre Picard and a conditional pick in the 2009 draft.
The trade capped the Flyers’ best day in weeks, with their last win a 3-2 victory against Atlanta on Feb. 5.
Prospal, an 11-year veteran, who has a career-best 29 goals this season, joins a team depleted by injuries. Leading scorer Mike Richards will miss at least three weeks after tearing his hamstring last weekend. And Philadelphia is already minus star forward Simon Gagne (concussion) and defenceman Derian Hatcher (knee).
Then there was Briere’s decisive goal, scored against his former team. It capped a three-goal rally that helped end an 0-8-2 slump – matching the longest in franchise history – and pushed Philadelphia into a tie with the Sabres for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. Philly has one more victory.
With a chorus of boos raining down on the Sabres’ former co-captain, Briere skated in on Ryan Miller, making a series of back-and-forth moves before stuffing the puck just inside the right post.
“All I was thinking was, ‘This is perfect. I can’t be in a better position,”‘ said Briere, who’s been booed recently in Philadelphia, blamed for the team’s struggles. “I think we just got rewarded a little bit tonight for the way things have been going against us lately.”
R.J. Umberger, who capped the Flyers’ comeback with 7:15 left in regulation, Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell also scored for Philadelphia.
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Sabres, who squandered a three-goal lead for the first time since a 6-5 overtime loss against Toronto on March 15, 2004.
Besides the loss, it’s possible the game was Brian Campbell’s last for Buffalo, with the Sabres anticipated to attempt to trade the two-time all-star defenceman before the deadline.
“Do I feel I might get traded? Yeah,” said Campbell, who’s in the final year of his contract. “Do I know 100 per cent? No.”
Campbell told reporters earlier in the day he did not plan to counter the Sabres’ last offer. The Sabres haven’t ruled out trading Campbell.
Miller was unhappy with the loss, but equally upset in blaming the media for creating a distraction regarding Campbell’s uncertain future.
“It’s just been way too much of a circus around Brian. It’s over tomorrow, and we move on,” Miller said.
As for the loss, Miller said: “It’s annoying. It’s a team we need to beat and a team we should have beat tonight.”
Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist, and Derek Roy and Clarke MacArthur also scored for Buffalo, which fell to 2-4 in its past six games.
The Sabres inexplicably couldn’t put a game away in which they built a 3-0 lead on Pominville’s goal 14:16 into the first period.
Umberger capped the comeback with a power-play goal shortly after Pominville was penalized for delay of game. From the right circle, Umberger snapped a shot in off the far post behind Miller, who was screened by Philadelphia’s Mike Knuble, who finished with two assists.
Philadelphia goalie Martin Biron also beat his former team after the Sabres traded him to the Flyers last year. Biron made 26 saves through overtime, and earned the win by stopping Tim Connolly and Derek Roy, who lost control of the puck as he shot, in the shootout.
“I got lucky tonight,” said Biron, who won for the first time in seven starts (1-5-1). “We came back, fought and battled. But we have to realize it can’t be like that all the time.”
Notes: Sabres C Jochen Hecht (leg) missed his second straight game. … Flyers D Kimmo Timonen was disappointed but not surprised that former teammate Peter Forsberg chose to sign with Colorado rather than Philadelphia. “When I talked to him a couple of months ago, he said, ‘Either us or Colorado,”‘ Timonen said. “We would’ve taken him with open arms. … I’m sure he’s going to help Colorado.” … Flyers D Jaroslav Modry left midway through the first period. The team did not provide an update of his status.