The Flyers lost their third consecutive game on Saturday when the visiting Sabres won 5-3. Three goals in a span of three minutes and forty seconds in the second period turned a two-goal Flyers lead into a one-goal deficit. Jason Pominville put away the game-winner six minutes and thirty-seven seconds into the final period. The loss drops Philly to 40-18-6 on the season.
After an opening ten minutes that saw several chances, including a shot off the post by Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers finally capitalized on a powerplay later in the first period. As Shaone Morrisonn sat in the box for a delay of game call, Matt Carle found himself in the corner to the left of Ryan Miller with the puck. Carle centered the puck to Mike Richards who then tipped it to Kris Versteeg for an open net goal. Versteeg’s eighteenth goal, and fourth as a Flyer, gave Philly the 1-0 lead with just over seven minutes left to play in the first.
In what was possibly his most skillful goal of the season, James van Riemsdyk added on his sixteenth goal to extend the Flyers’ lead to two. Picking up the puck in the neutral zone, JVR was able to fight off Morrisonn for a 2-on-1 opportunity. As Jordan Leopald dropped to the ice to block the pass, JVR put the puck on his backhand and roofed a shot over Miller’s glove. Coming with just two minutes and thirty-eight seconds left in the period, the Flyers then cruised into the second with the two-goal lead.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, a common trait of their game this season has been to dominate early and then allow the opposition back into the game with a brief lapse of discipline. A perfect example of that was in today’s game when Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, and Andrej Sekera scored in a three minute and forty second span early in the second period.
The first of the three goals came after the Flyers had just killed off a Chris Pronger tripping penalty. Unable to clear the zone, Braydon Coburn turned the puck over along the boards to Ennis who then passed it to Thomas Vanek behind the net to Sergei Bobrovsky’s right. Passing it to the slot, Vanek was able to find Stafford who was able to lift it over Bob’s shoulder after he had dropped to his knees too early. Stafford’s twenty-fifth goal on the season broke up Bob’s shutout and put the Sabres right back in the game.
Just under two minutes later, a lucky goal coming off of an awkward play erased Philly’s lead. As Ennis entered the zone, he moved down into the corner to Bob’s right and centered a pass to the slot. With Bob hugging the right post and Patrick Kaleta sliding into the open part of the net, the puck somehow found it’s way from the corner past the goal-line to tie the game at two. Ennis picked up his fourteenth goal and the Sabres picked up a new chance for victory.
Before the Flyers could even realize what was happening, Sekera found his way onto the scoresheet by scoring on a wrap around as a result of a broken play. After initially being stuffed by Bobrovsky’s left leg pad on a backhand attempt while moving from right to left across the top of the crease, Sekera regained possession of the puck behind the goal and wrapped around the net to the right post sliding a shot under a diving Coburn. Sekera’s third was also the Sabres’ third in the game.
Addressing the need to stop Buffalo’s offensive explosion, the Flyers answered quickly with a goal of their own. With Versteeg in the sin bin for slashing, Coburn and Kimmo Timonen put on an offensive show starting with a 2-on-1. After that had failed, the puck was about to leave the zone before Coburn picked it up and lifted a pass to Timonen. Gloving the puck to the ice, Timonen took a second to line up a shot and put it top right corner to tie the game at three. Timonen’s shorthanded goal was his fourth on the season.
The rest of Versteeg’s penalty was killed off successfully as the rest of the middle stanza saw no more scoring from either side. The chance for Philly to grab two points from a praying-for-the-playoffs hungry Buffalo team was still possible with just twenty minutes left in regulation.
Six minutes and thirty-seven seconds into the third period, Pominville tipped a shot passed Bob to give the Sabres all they needed to win. Vanek skated into the zone along the benches and stopped at the top of the circle to Bob’s right. As he dumped the puck to the slot, a hustling Pominville was able to put a stick on it and put it over the glove of a sprawled out Bobrovsky.
A Miller delay of game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass couldn’t help the Flyers at all as Nathan Gerbe added on an empty net goal just before the last minute of play to make the final score 5-3.
Playing back-to-back teams who are fighting for a playoff spot while they sit atop the conference could be a good reason as to why the Flyers have been getting outplayed lately. Add in players missing starts due to the flu and there’s no need to get worked up over the Flyers’ losing streak.
However, every game has importance and the easiest road to the Stanley Cup comes from being the top seed. As the Bruins and other teams gain momentum going into the final stretch of the season, the Flyers need to buckle down and wake up before it’s too late.
Notes: Timonen’s goal in the second was his 100th career goal. This is only the Flyers’ second three-game losing streak of the season; first was October 14th- October 21st. The last team the Flyers have beaten in regulation is the Rangers, who they play tomorrow in New York. The Flyers are now 2-1-0 against the Sabres on the season and 10-6-0 against the Northeast division (BOS 1-2-0, MTL 3-1-0, BUF 2-1-0, TOR 2-1-0, OTT 2-1-0).