The Flyers scored seven goals in the final 40 minutes to overcome an early two-goal deficit, as Philly trampled the visiting Buffalo Sabres 7-2 tonight. Claude Giroux dished out a career-high five assists, while Scott Hartnell had a goal and three assists in the Flyers’ third win over the Sabres this season.
Both Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot potted a pair of goals in the win, as the Flyers turned in their highest-scoring game since their 9-2 beating of the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 5.
Simmonds missed the beginning of the game due to an injury he suffered in warm-ups. After he took a puck to the face before the opening faceoff, Simmonds came out with a full bubble shield and deposited a pair of crucial power-play goals for the Flyers when the contest was still close.
“I sit beside him in the dressing room and he can’t even talk,” said Brayden Schenn about Simmonds. “You can’t even hear what comes out of his mouth because it’s so swelled up (but) he was there for us tonight and he had an outstanding performance.”
In the midst of all the Flyers’ scoring was Erik Gustafsson’s first goal in the NHL. With Simmonds’ eventual game-winning goal coming minutes earlier, Gustafsson was the first Flyer to beat Ryan Miller on the night off of a beautiful drop-pass from Jakub Voracek.
Although the Flyers dominated the game, both Danny Briere (upper-body injury) and Tom Sestito left the game with injuries.
Ville Leino was held scoreless and was minus-2 in his return to the Wells Fargo Center in the Sabres’ third straight defeat. The Buffalo forward saw his fourth straight game without a point and his seventh straight game without a goal, as the Finn remained stuck on four goals and 11 assists in 46 games this season despite a hefty free-agent contract.
After he allowed two goals in the first period, Ilya Bryzgalov kept the Sabres off the scoreboard for the final two periods for his first win since the Flyers’ 4-1 decision over the Nashville Predators on February 2. Bryzgalov outplayed both Jhonas Enroth, who stopped 15 of 18 shots before being pulled in the second period, and Miller, who allowed four goals on 17 shots.
To start the game, the Flyers found themselves down by a pair of goals before the ten-minute mark.
Just over five minutes into the game, Tyler Myers threw a pass cross ice to Jason Pominville, who was wide open to slam home his 22nd goal of the season. Thomas Vanek slapped a shot past Bryzgalov four minutes later to extend the Sabres’ lead to 2-0, which is where it stayed after the first 20 minutes.
Less than a minute into the second period, Talbot began the Philly goal blitz by potting his first goal of the game.
After he skated just in front of Enroth, Talbot deflected a Braydon Coburn slap shot from the point over the goalie’s right shoulder for his 15th goal of the season to make it a one-goal game.
Shortly after the Flyers’ first goal, Sestito fought Zack Kassian to a draw. Sestito left the game after the fight with an apparent hand injury.
It took Simmonds only 38 seconds to tie the game at two after the fight.
Myers was in the box for all of 10 seconds for his tripping minor before Simmonds whacked home a Giroux rebound past Enroth for his 19th goal of the season, coming at the 3:32 mark.
A little over three minutes later, Simmonds put home his second power-play goal of the game and the hosts moved ahead for good.
Thanks to a too-many-men-on-the-ice minor to Buffalo, Simmonds put home another rebound for his 20th goal of the season. Giroux was the facilitator again, shuttling a no-look pass to Hartnell in the slot, who ripped a shot on Enroth that Simmonds was able to tuck home inside the right post for a Flyers’ 3-2 advantage.
Gustafsson then tallied his milestone marker to give Philly a two-goal lead. He made a smart decision to trail a rush spearheaded by Voracek on the right wing, then fired the drop pass high and inside the left pipe at 13:48.
In the first couple minutes of the third period, Eric Wellwood made an amazing pass to Talbot to give the Flyers’ a three-goal lead.
Sean Couturier won a puck-battle in the left-wing corner before he moved the puck a couple feet up the boards to Wellwood. With a clear path across the crease to an unmarked Talbot, Wellwood rocketed a cross-ice pass and Talbot nailed the puck into the back of the net for his 16th goal of the season.
Voracek extended the Flyers’ lead 31 seconds later with his 10th goal of the season.
A Hartnell blast from the point resulted in a rebound that Voracek grabbed in the faceoff circle. With the slot to his left, Voracek gestured as though he was about to skate to the other circle when Miller seperated his legs to move across the ice to keep up with the Flyers’ forward. Voracek recognized Miller’s action and ripped a wrister five-hole on the goalie 4:29 into the third period.
Minutes later, Hartnell finished the game’s scoring, as he tapped home a Matt Read pass on a 2-on-1 to give the Flyers their 7-2 win.
The Flyers hope their momentum from tonight’s win carries over into their matinee game on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center.
Notes: Dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Flyers have won five straight against the Buffalo Sabres…Giroux is the second player to have a five-assist game this season in the NHL. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had five assists against the Chicago Blackhawks on November 19th…Giroux is the first Flyer to have five assists in a game since Alexandre Picard did so on February 1st, 2007…Tonight was Hartnell’s first four-point night since he had two goals and two assists against the Sabres on March 10th, 2009…This is the fourth time all season the Flyers have scored seven goals or more in a game. They’ve scored nine goals once (9-2 win over CBJ on 11/5), eight goals once(9-8 loss to WPG on 10/27) and seven goals twice (7-2 win over OTT on 10/18 and tonight). It’s the third time all season the Flyers have won by a margin of five goals or more…Andrej Meszaros (upper-body) and Jaromir Jagr (flu) missed tonight’s game…Tonight was the first game of Zac Rinaldo’s two-game suspension…After going 0-for-13 on the power play in their last four games, the Flyers converted two out of their three man advantages tonight…The Flyers improved to 3-0-0 against the Sabres and to 10-3-1 against the Northeast Division this season (BOS 1-1-1, OTT 2-1-0, TOR 2-0-0, MTL 2-1-0, BUF 3-0-0)…The Flyers improved to 32-18-7. They were 38-14-5 after 57 games last season.