Vanek and Flyers’ Penalty Kill Hand Philly Second Straight Loss

Image courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers suffered their second loss in 48 hours with a 5-2 defeat in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon.

Thomas Vanek accrued five points on two goals and three assists in the Sabres’ first game of the 2013 season.  Tyler Myers registered the game-winning goal in the third period, and Ryan Miller stopped 27-of-29 shots.

For the second straight start, you couldn’t blame Ilya Bryzgalov, as he denied 36 of Buffalo’s 40 shots on net. Both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers in a loss that drops them to 0-2-0 in this shortened season.

With the game tied at 2-2 late in regulation, Myers was credited with the game-winner on a shot from the point that hit traffic before it reached the back of the net. As Luke Schenn sat in the box for a necessary trip on Marcus Foligno to prevent a scoring chance, Tyler Ennis moved the puck across ice to Myers, who had just jumped on the ice from the bench. The towering defenseman let go of a blast that hit off a Flyers’ defender in front and got by Bryzgalov to give Buffalo the 3-2 edge with just 5:03 left in the contest.

Shortly after Myers’ goal, both he and Scott Hartnell were sent off for interference after Myers pushed Hartnell into Miller. The call could have easily been interference on just Myers, but the protection of Miller led to some four-on-four action.

Less than 30 seconds into the 4-on-4 session, Vanek found open ice and charged in on Bryzgalov all alone. After Bryzgalov’s initial save, the puck popped up in the air and landed in the crease, as Bryz took a moment to locate the disc and Jakub Voracek overskated the play.

Cody Hodgson flew into the crease and was able to put the puck in the net with a combination of touches from his stick and his skate for his first tally in 2013. The score was reviewed, but since any kicking motion was apparently unable to be seen on replay, the Sabres’ insurance tally stood.

With 1:29 left in regulation, Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout and pulled Bryzgalov. A Philly chance led to a scrum in front of the net where the biscuit eventually glided towards an open portion of the net and appeared to stop just beyond the goal line. Unfortunately, the refs had lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead just before the Orange and Black cut the deficit to one.

Shortly after the missed opportunity, Vanek polished off his five-point game with an empty-net tally to make it 5-2 with 48 seconds left.

“The bounces aren’t going our way right now,” Giroux said following the loss, which featured some unlucky bounces and debatable calls. “It’s not the start that we’re looking for, two losses in a row. But we’ll just have to fight through it and come back.”

Both the Flyers’ power play and penalty kill let them down today, as they converted one of their five chances with the man advantage and Buffalo potted three power-play goals on their six chances.

“The penalty kill right now, we’ve got to continue to look at it and work at it,” Laviolette said after the three-goal defeat. “Every day is a new opportunity. But we’ve got to get on track here and get a win in the column and get moving in the right direction.” Both of the Sabres’ go-ahead goals and their only game-tying goal came on the power play.

Both of the Sabres’ go-ahead goals and their lone tying goal came on the power play.

Although the Flyers’ came out with more energy than yesterday, they still trailed after the first 20 minutes.

In a period filled with physicality and chatter, it’s fitting that Steve Ott put the Sabres ahead on the scoreboard. With Nicklas Grossmann in the box for a trip on Hodgson, the tandem of Jason Pominville and Vanek played catch along the boards before Pominville threw a pass from the corner to Bryzgalov’s right into the slot to Ott. The former Dallas Star beat Bryzgalov blocker side for his first goal as a Sabre to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead with 8:53 left in the first period.

Shortly after Ott’s tally, Wayne Simmonds nearly started a clear path from the Flyers’ blue line to the Sabres’ offensive zone, but Robyn Regehr tripped Philly’s forward to put them on the man advantage. Following a decent shot from Simmonds on the power play and a scramble in the crease that resulted in the puck sliding away from the massive confusion in front, Buffalo killed off the penalty.

Minutes after the failed power play, Max Talbot looked to have the equalizer, but a questionable goalie interference call canceled out the goal. A shot from Schenn at the point resulted in a rebound that popped up in the air. While Miller looked in the air, Ruslan Fedotenko skated just outside the top of the crease. As the skater moved by Miller, he nudged the goalie at the very top of the crease just before Talbot whacked the puck home. The contact didn’t seem to be enough to keep Miller from making the save, as Pierre McGuire commented how even the Sabres’ bench reacted as if they felt the goal should have counted. However, the goal was disallowed and it stayed 1-0.

After the call that went Buffalo’s way, Giroux drew a tripping minor out of Jordan Leopold with less than three minutes left in the opening stanza. On a man advantage that saw Simmonds’ net presence create some chances, the Flyers’ failed to convert on yet another power play, as the Sabres entered the middle frame with a 1-0 lead.

In the second period, the Flyers regrouped and managed to grab their first lead of the season.

With some Sabres caught in a long change, Voracek provided a backhand just above the circle to Miller’s left. After the attempt was blocked, the puck glided towards the blue line where Kurtis Foster strolled over and slapped a rocket towards the net that Couturier ultimately redirected past Miller’s glove. Couturier’s first of the year leveled the score at one 2:23 into the second period.

Just over two minutes after Couturier’s tally, Regehr made his second trip to the sin bin, as he tripped Eric Wellwood in front of Miller to put the Flyers’ on the man advantage. For the first time in 2013, Philly converted on the power play.

With Hartnell and Simmonds causing problems in front for Miller, Kimmo Timonen faked a slap shot from the point before he slid a pass over to Giroux, who was locked and loaded at the top of the left circle. The captain launched a one-timer that sizzled past Buffalo’s netminder for his second goal of the season and a 2-1 game 4:57 into the middle period.

After the Flyers dictated play for the majority of the period, despite being out shot heavily, the Sabres evened the score due to their second power-play tally of the contest.

Scott Laughton was serving a too many men on the ice bench minor when the older Schenn was hit with a hooking minor on Hodgson in the defensive end. Schenn’s infraction put Buffalo on a 5-on-3 advantage for 23 seconds with less than five minutes left in the period. Although they didn’t score on the two-man advantage, the Sabres struck shortly into their 5-on-4 power play.

Couturier and Talbot were caught in a line change when Pominville moved the puck from the Sabres’ defensive zone to the Flyers’ blue line to Stafford. The Sabres’ forward then moved the puck from along the wall on the blue line to Vanek, who moved in alone on Bryzgalov. With a backhand-forehand move, Vanek froze Bryzgalov and slid the biscuit with ease into the cage to make it 2-2 with 4:06 left in the second.

Less than three minutes after Vanek’s tally, Hartnell and Stafford engaged in a scrap. After Hartnell, who checked Pominville from behind earlier in the period, rocked Ennis in the Flyers’ offensive zone, something that Stafford took exception to. Some chatter between the two led to a fight at the Sabres’ blue line, where Stafford tried to make Hartnell flinch with several shakes of his hands before the two squared away. Stafford ultimately got Hartnell to the ice, but Hartnell landed the best punch in the bout, as he caught the Sabre with a right hook clean to the jaw.

In the final minute of the period, Ott was sent off for diving, as he flopped to the ice after an offensive draw to give Philly a power play heading into the third period.

To start the final period, the Sabres killed off the rest of Ott’s penalty and enjoyed a power play of their own when Fedotenko was sent off for tripping Mikhail Grigorenko in the Flyers’ defensive zone. However, the power play turned out to be one of the three Philly’s penalty kill actually kept Buffalo from converting, as Simmonds almost found Laughton in the creae for the go-ahead goal shortly after the power play.

Simmonds controlled the puck at the bottom of the circle to Miller’s left before he threw a pass across the crease to Laughton, who nearly put a stick on the pass to put Philly ahead, but a Sabre managed to break up the rookie’s chance with a stick lift.

Notes: The Flyers look for their first win of the season at New Jersey on Tuesday night…This was Buffalo’s first home regular-season regulation win against Philly since December 21, 2007 (3-2). The loss ends the Flyers’ six-game winning streak against the Sabres, which included Games 6 and 7 of the teams’ 2011 ECQF meeting. It’s the Flyers’ first loss in Buffalo since Game 4 of that same series…Ott had a goal, two PIMs, three shots on net, and five hits in first game as Sabre. He was also named the game’s third star…John Scott had one blocked shot in 2:10 TOI in his first game as a Sabre…Grigorenko was minus-1 with two shots on net in 11:13 TOI in first NHL game…Rinaldo suffered a lower-body injury and left the game early. He had two hits in 2:47 TOI before he left with the injury…Both Timonen and Grossmann were hit with shots in the third period. The pair of players skated to the bench in pain, but returned to action shortly after their shot blocks…This was Vanek’s first five-point game in his career…Dating back to Game 5 of their ECQF meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers have lost four straight road games between the regular season and postseason…With the loss, Philly dropped to 0-1-0 against the Sabres this season. They’re 0-1-0 against the Northeast Division in 2013 (OTT 0-0-0, BUF 0-1-0, BOS 0-0-0, TOR 0-0-0, MTL 0-0-0).