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Boucher waits, redeems himself between the pipes

As a reliever, Brian Boucher has two wins in this series. As a starter, he has a win and a loss and an early hook that resulted in no decision.

And now the Philadelphia Flyers' utterly bizarre goaltending carousel has swung back to Boucher again. The 34-year-old stopped 24 of 25 shots in Sunday's 5-4 overtime triumph that kept the defending Eastern Conference champions alive and forced Game Seven against the Buffalo Sabres.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who normally guards information better than most government agencies, had a big smile for reporters when asked who will be in the crease Tuesday night. He was finally going to reveal a state secret -- but it was one anyone in HSBC Arena could have guessed.

"Brian Boucher will start Game Seven," Laviolette said.

Boucher will certainly be happy to hear that because he was furious to learn he wasn't starting Game Six. Boucher, of course, gave up three first-period goals Friday night, including terrible bad-angle shots from Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek, and was replaced by Michael Leighton.

Leighton made 20 saves, giving up only Ennis' overtime goal. So Laviolette went back to Leighton on Sunday -- even though the goalie who led the Flyers to last year's Stanley Cup final started exactly one NHL game this season.

The move was a bust. Leighton was pulled after giving up three goals on eight shots in the first period.

Boucher had told reporters after practice Saturday he wanted a chance to get redemption Sunday and was crushed when he learned he wasn't getting the start.

"I was absolutely disappointed not to get the chance to start," Boucher said. "I felt I've had a good series aside from three minutes [of Game Five].

"But I just had to keep myself ready in case. We're all in this together and that's what kept me motivated."

The Flyers had never had three goalies start in a playoff series (although they used three last year against Boston) until Leighton got the call Sunday. In fact, no NHL team had since Vancouver started three against Calgary in 2004.

The only goal Boucher allowed was a long snap shot from Nathan Gerbe at 16:09 of the second period. It came 12 seconds after the Flyers completed killing a two-man advantage and Boucher pounded the ice in disgust when the puck went in off Sean O'Donnell's stick.

"I asked [O'Donnell] on the bench if it hit his stick after, because I was so confused as to why it dropped and he said it for sure hit his stick," Boucher said. "I was like, 'Maybe he was lying to me to make me feel better, but it made sense afterward. I really thought that was going high and it ended up going under my glove."

Boucher didn't have a big degree of difficulty on his saves as the Flyers had a 41-22 dominance of shots in the game in five-on-five situations.

His best stop came midway through the second period when an Ennis shot hit defenseman Matt Carle and dribbled to the goal line before Boucher stopped it. He also snagged a Gerbe laser off a faceoff early in the third.

"Brian expects to start," Laviolette said. "I respect that about him, and he had an opportunity to come in tonight and help this team live for another day. He was tremendous."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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