The Buffalo Sabres were saved by the bell when the second period ended Friday night. They spent most of the middle frame on their heels and playing with two men missing from the bench, as they were dealing with the Philadelphia Flyers' onslaught as well as injuries to Jason Pominville and Jordan Leopold.
"That was a tough second," winger Drew Stafford said after the 4-3 overtime victory. "[The Flyers] got a lot of momentum after the two penalties we took and we couldn't get any of it back, especially when they started scoring. We got out of the second period, regrouped and stuck with it all the way through overtime."
Pominville left for good with about three minutes left in the first period after taking what appeared to be a severe cut with a skate on the left leg.
Leopold took a puck to the face and needed several stitches. He missed more than a full period of action, leaving the ice with 5:51 left in the first period and not returning until there was 6:44 left in the second. He played just four shifts and 2:21 of the second period.
"I really felt that hurt us," said coach Lindy Ruff. "One guy [Leopold] is getting sewn up and obviously we lost Pommer, which is a big loss."
"We just said, 'Keep playing,' " added winger Thomas Vanek. "We shuffled the lines and whoever played with whoever. We just said to skate, work hard and to just play."
Stafford, like most in the locker room, said he didn't see what happened to Pominville until he hopped to the bench and burst down the tunnel to the dressing room.
"No matter what happened to him, he's out and he's a huge part of our team, our offense, our defense and special teams," Stafford said. "So we just hope for the best."
Pominville's loss was felt even more because the Sabres got nailed with three second-period penalties, including a delay of game call on Rob Niedermayer that gave the Flyers a two-man advantage for nine seconds. Philly finished 0 for 5 on the power play.
"Anytime you lose guys, it's not a good situation -- especially when they're penalty killers and we're killing," Vanek said. "It puts us short-handed but we had other guys to step up."
"That was such a battle, especially with them coming back," Stafford said. "We weathered their storm coming out at home at the start and got it going."
With Leopold out, Chris Butler played 10:07 in the middle period and Tyler Myers played 9:34. Myers and Butler led the Sabres in ice time at 27:48 and 26:34, respectively. Marc-Andre Gragnani saw 22:33.
Paul Gaustad (22:42) and Tim Connolly (22:34) led the forwards in ice time and the Sabres went with mostly three lines minus Pominville, dropping Mike Grier (9:15) and Cody McCormick (5:53) out of the rotation.
The penalty time hurt Vanek, who played just 8:13 over the first 40 minutes before ending at 16:17.
"We knew after the first they were going to push," Vanek said. "That's a good team. They have a lot of good goalscorers and playmakers. We stayed composed on the bench and didn't get down on ourselves. We kept working hard and in the third period we threw some good looks at them."