Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series tied 2-2

Game 1: Tuesday, October 22nd
Game 2: Saturday, December 14th
Game 3: Tuesday, January 7th
Game 4: Tuesday, March 18th

Sabres 2

(10-23-2, 27 pts)

Flyers 3

(21-10-1, 51 pts)

7:00 PM ET, January 7, 2003

Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1 2 3 T
BUF 1 1 02
PHI 0 2 13

J. Williams (Flyers - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

A. Kotalik (Sabres - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

J. Roenick (Flyers - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Esche finishes with 21 saves for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Determined to build on a successful road trip, the Philadelphia Flyers found a way to win despite a sluggish performance.

 Robert Esche

Justin Williams scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, leading the Flyers to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

The Atlantic Division-leading Flyers, coming off a 4-2-1 road trip, have won four straight.

"We accomplished a lot on the road. We raised the bar for ourselves," said Flyers captain Keith Primeau, who scored the team's first goal. "We didn't want to take a step back."

Buffalo had won two in a row after losing seven straight.

Ales Kotalik scored both of the Sabres' goals. He also had both of Buffalo's goals in a 2-1 win over Ottawa on Saturday.

"We started playing in a shell and didn't have the killer instinct to go out and get that third goal," Sabres forward Rob Ray said. "It's a young team and that's something you have to teach them."

The Flyers hadn't taken a shot in the third period before Williams unleashed a slap shot from just outside the right faceoff circle that soared over the left shoulder of Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.

"It was a great breakout by our defenseman, Jeremy Roenick carried the puck up, passed it to Simon (Gagne) and I'm glad I buried it," Williams said.

Philadelphia's previous shot was Roenick's game-tying goal with 26.4 seconds left in the second period.

Mark Recchi started a barrage of backhanders with a pass behind the net to Roenick, who backhanded a pass to Williams in front of the net. Williams then backhanded a shot that hit the stick of Sabres defenseman Jay McKee and went to Roenick, who backhanded it into an open net for his 13th goal.

"I know it wasn't pretty, but that's the sign of a good club," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's a great character win. After a long road trip, there's so many things going on in your life that are non-hockey that it's hard to focus."

Primeau's power-play goal cut it to 2-1 with 7:18 left in the second. Primeau won a faceoff, went to the net, positioned himself in front of Miller and put in a rebound off a shot by Kim Johnsson for his 11th goal.

Robert Esche made 21 saves to improve to 8-2-3.

"It wasn't one of our best games, but we found a way to win," Esche said. "You have a successful road trip, the last thing you want to do is come home and not play well."

The Sabres took a 1-0 lead when Kotalik slapped a shot past with 15 seconds left in the first period. His power-play goal midway through the second made it 2-0.

Miroslav Satan set up the goal with a pass that went between Johnsson's legs right to Kotalik, who one-timed a shot for his 10th goal.

"We had a lot of odd-numbered situations that we didn't take advantage of," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Game notes
The Sabres are a league-worst 3-13-2-1 on the road, and have scored just 89 goals, fewest in the Eastern Conference. ... Gagne returned after missing five games because of a concussion. ... Defenseman Chris Therien missed his third game in a row with a concussion. ... Buffalo had won five of the last six games against the Flyers. ... Recchi's two assists gave him 1,100 points, making him the 46th player in NHL history to reach that mark. ... It was Miller's first loss in regulation in six career starts. He's 3-3.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press