The Philadelphia Flyers needed a win on Sunday night. The Buffalo Sabres did not. The Sabres have been eliminated for a while now while the Flyers are looking to clinch their first playoff berth since 2012.
The game did not start as many had expected. While the Flyers had moments when they were buzzing around Sabres goaltender Nathan Lieuwen, they could not get any sustained pressure. With the Flyers searching for their stride, the Sabres took the opportunity to get after the Flyers as they ripped five shots on Steve Mason early.
Things began to shift just over midway through the period as the Flyers started to pelt Lieuwen with shots. After the Flyers forced a Buffalo turnover in their own zone, Mark Streit ripped a one-timer that blasted off the post and came out hard to the slot where Matt Read was crashing the net. Read didn’t miss the opportunity to get the Flyers on the board.
Read’s 21st goal of the year gave their Flyers their first lead in a week as they had not held a lead since they led the Boston Bruins 2-1 on March 30th. Overall, they fired 14 shots at Lieuwen but came away with just one goal.
The second period was all Flyers from the beginning. Philadelphia started swarming early until, seven minutes in, Mark Streit got the puck to Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo made a move to the slot and ripped a wrist shot past Lieuwen to give the Flyers a two-goal lead.
After Sabres defenseman Jamie McBain went to the box for interference, the Flyers went to work on the power play. It got exciting immediately as Claude Giroux found Jake Voracek on a cross-ice pass. Voracek fired a one-timer at the open net but Lieuwen somehow got over to make the incredible pad save. Wayne Simmonds had the rebound knocked away from him but right to Giroux. The Flyers’ captain shot towards the open net but it hit Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel before reaching the goal.
Later on the same power play, Voracek got the puck to Simmonds in the slot who saw his shot flutter just over the top of the crossbar. Philadelphia came up empty on that power play but set the tone for the rest of the period.
Two minutes later, again on the power play, Streit got the puck at the blue line and fired another laser towards the Buffalo net but a diving Brayden Schenn redirected the puck past Lieuwen to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
They weren’t done.
With 2:02 remaining in the period, Buffalo chipped the puck in on Flyers goaltender Steve Mason and headed off on a line change. Mason immediately fired an outlet pass to an open Voracek at the opposite blue line. The Flyers’ forward carried the puck then dropped it to Vinny Lecavalier who ripped a wristshot topshelf to pad the Philadelphia lead. It was Mason’s seventh career assist and his second with the Flyers.
The third period did not get off to a good start for Philadelphia. Four minutes in, Rinaldo came across the ice and connected on a hit directly to Ruhwedel’s head. The ensuing penalty was a five-minute major for contact to the head that brings along with it a match-penalty. Buffalo went to work on the power play when Christian Ehrhoff’s point shot was redirected by Cody Hodgson to get the Sabres on the board with 2:03 remaining on the major.
Later in the third period, Wayne Simmonds got to a loose puck in the Flyers’ zone and sprung Schenn out on the wing on a breakaway. Schenn ripped his 20th goal of the season, and second of the game, topshelf to make it a 5-1 Flyers advantage.
With the win pretty much secured, Sabres defenseman Mike Weber pushed Jay Rosehill into Lieuwen and drew the goaltender interference call. On the delayed penalty, Hodgson found Ehrhoff who beat Mason to get it to the 5-2 final score.
The much-needed win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Flyers. Granted, it was against the worst team in the NHL but, with the Blue Jackets beating the Islanders, the Flyers needed to win to stay two points ahead.
Philadelphia travels to Sunrise, Florida on Tuesday for a game with the NHL’s second-worst team, the Florida Panthers. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 pm.