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ESCAPE ARTISTS; Ennis buries winner as Sabres win in OT

Tyler Ennis gets a lot of credit for having poise, for being one of those young guys who are mature beyond their years. He let loose Friday night and had a blast acting like a kid.

Ennis dreamed big and jumped high, celebrating his overtime winner that pushed the Buffalo Sabres past Philadelphia, 4-3. The Game Five victory gave the Sabres a 3-2 series lead, and they can close out the Flyers during an Easter Sunday matinee in HSBC Arena.

"We can celebrate this for about 20 more minutes, and then we've got to focus on the next one because we've got one more," said Ennis, who partied hard during the time allowed.

Ennis' exuberance started prior to overtime. He was already picturing the victory celebration. He'd seen enough OT playoff games growing up to know the goal-scorer gets all the attention. As he sat through intermission, he knew he wanted to be that guy.

"I think everyone was really excited," Ennis said. "I know I was. I haven't been in too many NHL overtime games. I know I just really wanted to score the winner. I just wanted to be that guy to score it."

With 5:31 gone in overtime, Ennis saw a rebound pop right to him. He saw the goal light ignite. He saw his teammates rushing to mob him. He jumped like a kid who just opened his favorite Christmas present.

"I was pretty excited," the 21-year-old said. "In my junior days I was known to celebrate pretty hard after goals. I've kind of been a little tame, but when it's a big goal like this, you've got to elevate. You've got to get off that ice.

"It's unreal. It's the best feeling. Sometimes when you score a goal you like to see how the bench reacts. It gives you a boost. When you can get everybody off the bench like that, it's a great feeling."

Mike Weber and Steve Montador were already on the ice to celebrate. Just after Rob Niedermayer kept the puck in the Philly zone, Montador chipped the puck along the blue line to Mike Weber. Goaltender Michael Leighton got a pad on the point shot, but Ennis drove down the right side to bury the rebound.

"I knew Webby was shooting, so I was just hoping he would kick it to me," Ennis said. "When I saw it there, I was pretty excited. It was an awesome feeling when it went in."

Folks thought the series couldn't have been tighter through four games. Then came Game Five. The Sabres opened a 3-0 lead, but the Flyers stormed back to tie the game.

The Sabres' early dominance disappeared when Jason Pominville did. The right winger suffered a lacerated left leg when stepped on with a skate late in the first period. He reportedly was seen after the game with crutches and a walking boot that went up above the knee.

"We'll have more probably [today], but it doesn't look too good," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

The short-handed Sabres could only attempt to hold on against the shark-like Flyers, who sensed the blood and circled repeatedly in an attempt to get the edge in the series.

"It was a little [closer] than it should have been, but all that matters is we got the win," Sabres defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani said.

Things couldn't have started better for the Sabres. They scored the first three goals in 15:36, sent goalie Brian Boucher to the bench and had the Philly fans stunned.

Boucher allowed goals to Ennis and Thomas Vanek that had no business going in during the opening 3:51. After Gragnani scored on a power-play blast to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette summoned Boucher to the bench.

Leighton became the third Philadelphia netminder in the series. Boucher replaced playoff starter Sergei Bobrovsky in Game Two. Leighton had it easy until overtime.

"We knew we just had to get shots on this guy," Weber said. "We hadn't tested him very much in the second or third. We got a lucky one there with Enzo going to the net, and it feels pretty good."

The Sabres' good fortune turned with 3:09 left in the first. Pominville was bumped in the corner, tried skating then abruptly tossed his gloves and stick in the air. He lifted his left leg, coasted to the bench and hopped to the dressing room, reportedly screaming in pain with a bloody leg.

Buffalo, which lost defenseman Jordan Leopold with 6:14 left in the first with an upper-body ailment, opened the second with just 16 skaters.

The Flyers opened with 12 of the first 13 shots to pull within a goal and get the 19,959 fans believing again.

"They come hard," Ennis said. "If you kind of sit back and let them create off the rush, they're going to be dominant. We're both good teams, and sometimes momentum shifts like that. I expect momentum shifts every game, so we just have to limit how long they have the momentum for."

The momentum for Philly continued into the third period. Danny Briere tied the game with 3:36 gone. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller wasn't beaten again, finishing with 36 saves and setting up Ennis for his dream sequence.

"This is why we play the game," Gragnani said. "The NHL playoffs, overtime on the road. Maybe just being at home beats the feeling with your own fans celebrating, but we'll take it. We're looking forward to Sunday."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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