By Tim Schmitt
BUFFALO — • The series
Buffalo took a 3-2 series lead with Sunday’s convincing victory. The Sabres held Philadelphia to just three shots in the first period, then just seven more in the third.
• The star
The first star at the game was Ryan Miller, but Danny Briere really was the one who deserved it. His two pretty passes set up goals two and three.
• The key play
Philly’s Brian Savage took a penalty for goaltender interference with less than a minute remaining in the second period and the Sabres ahead 1-0. Just 11 seconds later, Briere fed a nifty pass to J.P. Dumont to give Buffalo a 2-0 edge. Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock wouldn’t comment on the call, but did emphatically say “it was a major turning point in the game.”
• Teppo shows heart
After missing Game 4 due to an irregular heartbeat, Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen jumped back into action on Sunday, and Ruff wasn’t shy about putting the Finn on the ice. Numminen played 21:46, which trailed only Brian Campbell in that category.
• Power play
After suffering through a power outage at the Wachovia Center, Buffalo clicked on a pair of power plays in Game 5. Connolly’s goal came on the power play as did Dumont’s.
• Finally for Max
He’d gone four games without a goal, but Maxim Afinogenov finally lit the lamp in the third period on beautiful pass from Briere. It seemed obvious the winger realized the weight the goal lifted, after scoring and getting a nudge in the back from Niko Dimitrakos, Afinogenov jumped in the boards behind the net.
Knee on knee
Although it looked unintentional and didn’t draw a penalty call, Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad did catch Petr Nedved with a knee-on-knee hit in the third. Although Nedved laid on the ice for a bit, he did return to action. Hitchcock said after the game that he had not seen the play and wouldn’t comment until getting to see the tape.
• Sabres by the numbers
Buffalo’s scoring advantage in the first periods of games in this series. The Sabres added another one in Game 5 as Tim Connolly scored on the power play on perhaps the prettiest goal of the series as he stickhandled through the middle of the Flyers’ zone and ripped a shot over the glove hand of Robert Esche.
The ugly plus/minus mark of Sabres captain Chris Drury after six games. Drury does have three points, but has the worst postseason plus/minus on the team. Drury was also tied for the worst regular-season mark among forwards at minus-11 with Thomas Vanek.