BUFFALO, N.Y. – For Daniel Briere, hockey probably hasn’t been exactly enjoyable these last few months.
Battling a variety of injuries, the Philadelphia centre finally broke through Friday night with two goals in a 6-4 victory over Buffalo on Friday night. The former Buffalo star scored second-period goals within a 2:05 span to rally the Flyers from a 3-2 deficit. It was his first multi-goal game in more than six months, dating back to Oct. 18 at San Jose. But it was also his first goal since Nov. 11 at the New York Islanders.
“On the first one, a lot of weight came off my shoulders,” said Briere, who missed 53 games with groin and stomach problems. “The second one I got to enjoy a little more.”
Added Flyers coach John Stevens: “He really came through for us. “We were kind of on our heels for a little bit. He scored a couple of big goals, and that’s obviously great for us.”
The win not only gave the Flyers a season sweep of the four-game series against Buffalo, but also kept Philadelphia tied with Pittsburgh for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have 86 points.
“This is huge,” Briere said. “If we split, we’re a lot closer to each other. It makes a huge difference.
“We’re in control of our own destiny instead of needing some help from other teams.”
Buffalo, meanwhile, remained 10th in the conference race with 76 points. The Sabres have won only once in their last six games in what is becoming a more desperate climb back into contention.
“It’s going to be tough,” Buffalo captain Craig Rivet said. “We’re here to battle and we’re going to do everything we can. We’re not going to quit.”
Added Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff: “We have to keep the effort and keep working at it. We didn’t score on our chances and they scored on theirs. That was probably a big turning point for them.”
Mike Richards had a power-play goal and two assists, and Simon Gagne, Mike Knuble, and Jeff Carter also scored to help Philadelphia snap a two-game losing streak. Martin Biron made 39 saves, and Kimmo Timonen had three assists.
Thomas Vanek, Dominic Moore, Derek Roy, and Chris Butler scored for Buffalo. Goalie Patrick Lalime stopped 25 shots.
Briere’s first goal tied it 3-3 with 2:40 to go in the second period, converting a rebound from about 12 feet out. He then scored the go-ahead goal with 35 seconds remaining, firing in a slapshot from the slot.
Knuble added an insurance goal 4:31 into the third period, batting in a rebound from in front. The goal was only granted after a lengthy video review proved to be inconclusive, thus upholding the ruling of the on-ice officials.
Carter finished a 2-on-1 with two minutes to go, and Butler scored a last-ditch goal with 1.2 seconds remaining.
In the first period, Richards missed on a penalty shot with 2:14 remaining, ringing his wrist shot off a goalpost. He made up for it 42 seconds later, opening the scoring on a low wrist shot which got between two defenceman and past Lalime.
In a back-and-forth second period, each team scored three times. Buffalo grabbed a 2-1 lead on goals by Vanek and Moore in the first 6:22, but Gagne tied it 2-2 with a power-play goal at 10:14. Roy again put the Sabres up with 5:54 to go before Briere scored twice to put Philadelphia back on top.
“In the second, they came out extremely hard,” Biron said. “We had to do a good job against a team that was desperate.”
Notes: Philadelphia, in outscoring Buffalo 20-9 in the four games this season, recorded its first season sweep of Buffalo since 2000-01. … The Flyers will conclude their current four-game road swing Sunday in Pittsburgh. … Richards has three goals and eight assists in his last nine games. Gagne has four goals and seven assists in his last nine. … Moore’s goal was his first point as a Sabre. It came in his seventh game with the team after being acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline.