A lot has been said about the Flyers’ slow starts of late so the first shift was going to set the tone. The Flyers are in desperate need of reversing their first-period woes. They are a minus thirteen in first-period goal differential, third-worst in the NHL. Prior to March, they were a plus five.
Head coach Alain Vigneault started his veteran line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek. They started with some jump and nearly scored within the first few seconds as Couturier rung a backhand off the post. The Flyers continued to press and the veteran line was the catalyst. However, Buffalo is a team desperately trying to end a 17 game losing streak and they too played a strong first period.
The Sabres struck first at 9:38 of the period when Sam Reinhart‘s shot that was going wide deflected in off of Justin Braun for an unlucky goal. The play came right on the heels of a strong scoring chance by Travis Konecny. TK has been struggling of late, having not scored a goal in his last ten games. The Sabres added a second goal at the 11:59 mark when a shot by Braun led to what looked to be a Buffalo breakaway. Braun recovered nicely, but a pass to a wide-open Curtis Lazar ended in a second Sabres goal.
The Flyers would have their chances but were unable to crack Sabre’s netminder, Linus Ullmark. The period ended with a 2-0 Sabres lead.
The Flyers started the second by dictating the pace of the play. They spent the majority of the first four minutes in the offensive zone. They got the first powerplay of the game due to a high stick penalty against and although the PP didn’t score, the Flyers did get their first of the contest shortly afterward. The veteran line had another strong shift in the offensive zone when Ivan Provorov blasted one from the point that deflected off of Brandon Montour. Couturier and Voracek with the assist, which extended Coots’ point streak to five games.
The deficit would not stay at one goal for long. Even though the Flyers dominated the play, they did not get the momentum boost of a goal. The Sabres went almost 13 minutes without a shot, but they were clinical when they did so. At 9:42 of the second period, Steven Fogarty scored his first NHL goal to retake a two-goal lead. The goal did what it was supposed to do for the Sabres, it got them going. Fogerty’s goal came off another failure to clear the defensive zone by the Flyers.
The Sabres would add another goal on yet another Flyers defensive breakdown. As the Flyers continue to get caught puck watching, Casey Middelstadt found himself all along to bury a shot at the 15.39 mark. Mittelstadt’s goal led to a 4-1 lead an early exit by Brian Elliott. Alex Lyon, who relieved Elliott in goal and was forced to make two difficult saves right off the bat.
The Flyers would get another powerplay on a delay of game penalty, but they were unable to capitalize on the man advantage. At the end of the second period, the Sabres led 4-1.
Another Third Period Comeback?
The Flyers once again came out with a sense of purpose in the third period, however, they fought the puck and gave up some chances. At the 9:30 mark, the Flyers showed some life as they went after Jeff Skinner. Skinner had a wrap-around attempt and was immediately hit by Laughton. Farabee and Gustafsson also went after Skinner, but upon replay, it didn’t appear that Skinner did anything to warrant the attention.
For most of the Third Period, the Flyers did not generate quality shots that challenged Ullmark. Long-range shots were gobbled up easily by the Sabres’ netminder. With just over five minutes remaining, Vigneault pulled Lyon while the Flyers were on the power play. An errant pass was intercepted by Montour who iced the puck into the empty net. for the 5-1 victory. Montour added another goal at the 15:30 mark, banging home a rebound off his own shot to beat Lyon. Both goals were shorthanded during the same penalty.
The loss drops the Flyers to 6-10-1 in the month of March. The Sabres ended their winless streak at 18 games. The Flyers play again Saturday as they get a rare two days off before traveling to Long Island.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyree