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Grier beats clock, Sabres beat Flyers

The only evidence needed to summarize the Buffalo Sabres' season was uncovered in the final 10 seconds Saturday afternoon. Derek Roy could have stopped skating. Mike Grier could have pulled up. The Sabres could have taken a deep breath and waited for overtime.

Fans have come to expect them playing to the final horn, providing an honest effort and finding victory one way or another. So perhaps Grier's goal with 4.6 seconds remaining could have been expected. The result was a 6-5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers before 19,717 fans in the Wachovia Center.

Yes, just another boring Sabres game.

Buffalo appeared in trouble after Philly built a 2-0 lead in the first period but didn't blink. The Sabres were trailing, 5-4, going into the third period and never flinched. It was as if they knew they were leaving Philly with a victory. The Flyers were caught playing for overtime by a Sabres team playing to win.

"It exemplifies a little bit of our season," Sabres co-captain Chris Drury said. "There's no quit no matter what's left on the clock or what the situation is."

It worked because they worked. Grier's turnover gave the Flyers an early 1-0 lead, but it was forgotten when he skated toward the net for his first goal since Dec. 30. The puck seemed innocent after hopping past Mike Richards with the clock winding down.

Bang bang, Roy found Grier with a perfect backhand feed, Grier found the net with a perfect shot. It all happened so quickly that the Sabres were on the team bus before the Flyers knew they lost after generating one shot in the third period.

"It feels good being that I gave them that first goal," Grier said. "It was a big turnover on the wall. To be able to come back and get one feels good."

"I was kind of lucky," Roy said. "I didn't know where he was, but I figured he was there."

The Sabres have won five straight, including two consecutive games in which goalie Ryan Miller was scorched for five goals. They have 41 victories this season with the Eastern Conference lead within reach. Buffalo plays Boston at 5 p.m. today in HSBC Arena.

Buffalo was coming off an 8-5 win over Tampa Bay. The last time the Sabres gave up five or more goals in consecutive games and won both was Feb. 8-9, 1984. The last NHL team to accomplish the feat was Ottawa, which did it Nov. 3-5, 1993. It was another accomplishment in a season of many.

"It's not one person," said Miller, who gave way to Martin Biron in the third period. "I wasn't as good as I needed to be, and other guys were. We deserved the two points because we worked as a team."

The sellout crowd Saturday was treated to a possible playoff preview. The only people more tired than goalkeepers Miller and Antero Niittymaki were the scorekeepers.

Buffalo and Philly combined for seven goals in the second period alone, including four from the Sabres. Mike Knuble and Sami Kapanen gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead in the first period before it turned into a tennis match. The Sabres had a 4-3 advantage with just more than seven minutes left in the second and wound up trailing, 5-4, going into the third.

"We got scored against on the few chances we gave up," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We only got scored against because maybe we were too aggressive. That same aggressiveness won us the game. We dominated the third period, gave up one shot, and we didn't look back."

Daniel Briere centering J.P. Dumont and Jochen Hecht has emerged recently as the Sabres' top line. All three scored Saturday and combined for six assists. Teppo Numminen scored his first goal this season and gave his teammates a laugh when he swatted a backhander past Niittymaki to give the Sabres the 4-3 lead.

"I tried to keep a straight face, but I couldn't," Numminen said.

With the Sabres down, 5-4, Drury scored from his office, just above the goal line on the power play. Grier finished it off -- just in time.

"We were down, 2-0, on the road, but we still seem to find a way," Drury said. "It's been amazing."

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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