Wrapup: Flyers Fortunate for One Point in 4-3 OT Loss to Sabres
WRAPUP: SABRES 4 - FLYERS 3 (OT)
The Philadelphia Flyers were lucky to rescue one point but unfortunate not to get two as they dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Buffalo Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. Moments after Scott Laughton came with a whisker of scoring during the 3-on-3 overtime, Buffalo forward Zemgus Girgensons converted a breakaway opportunity to win the game.
Philadelphia found itsef chasing the game for most of the night, putting itself in a quick 2-0 hole in the first period and playing catch-up hockey. The Flyers got outshot in all three periods of regulation and could not generate sustained momentum for long segments of the game as the Sabres outworked them.
“It’s never fun to play from behind," said Brayden Schenn, who earned his third and fourth goals of the young season. "We have to start the game like we’re behind. We have to play better and put our foot on the gas pedal a little bit. Goalies are too good, teams are too good, to always try to come back. So it’s something we have to change.”
Tyler Ennis (third goal of the season) and Jamie McGinn (power play, first goal of the season) gave the Sabres a two-goal shortly past the mid-point of the opening period. After the Flyers' Chris VandeVelde trimmed the deficit to 2-1 before the first intermission, the score held until the third period.
Outplayed early in the third period, the Flyers struck for a line-rush goal by Brayden Schenn to tie the game at 2-2 with 11:16 left in regulation. Less than two minutes later, Jake McCabe (second goal of the season) weaved a shot through heavy traffic into the net. With time ticking down under the final minute of play and the Flyers skating 6-on-5 with an empty net, Schenn notched his second goal of the period off a double-deflection originally shot by Claude Giroux.
"We had a good start, we had a good first few minutes and then we didn’t sustain that through the first period," said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.
"The rest of the game was up and down. I thought Buffalo moved the puck and spread things out really well. We couldn’t sustain anything from one shift to the next on a consistent basis, but instead in saying that we found a way to continue staying with it and push to get to overtime."
In overtime, Girgensons took a lead pass from ex-Flyer Carlo Colaiacovo and went off on a breakaway. Perhaps expecting Girgensons to skate closer and make a move, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was beaten between the pads by a quick wrist shot.
"We watched a lot of video of his five-hole," said Girgensons. "I knew that was my best chance."
Mason finished the game with 36 saves on 40 shots. Buffalo counterpart Chad Johnson stopped 30 of 33 shots to earn the win.
The Flyers had the better of play for the first three minutes of the opening period but then Buffalo took over. Philadelphia survived a couple of bad turnovers but soon found themselves trailing.
At the 6:36 mark, Ennis stepped out from behind the net and, with seemingly nothing to shoot at on the short side, put a shot on net that went off the top of Mason's left pad and leaked through the Flyers' goaltender on the blocker side. O'Reilly received the lone assist.
"“I don’t know [how it went in]. I was in good position. I wouldn’t have played it any differently. He just found a hole," said Mason. "I haven’t seen the video on it but I played it exactly how I would have played it if I made a save on it. I’m not sure where the hole was found.”
Giroux went to the box for roughing O'Reilly in the defensive corner at 9:12. With 33 seconds left on the penalty, McGinn got his stick into the crease to re-direct as Johan Larsson sent it to the net from the left circle. Brian Gionta got the secondary assist as the Sabres made it 2-0.
Marcus Foligno kicked a rebound of a McGinn shot off a defender and into the net at 12:47. The would-be goal was disallowed and the score remained 2-2. NHL rule 38.4 (iv) states, "If the puck, after being kicked, deflects off any other player of either team and then into the net, this is still no goal."
Flyers' fourth line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had to be helped off the ice with 5:52 left in the first period after a battle behind the Buffalo net. The player, who appeared to injure his right leg or knee, did not return to the game.
VandeVelde cut the Flyers' deficit to 2-1 at with a goal that eluded Johnson's glove on a shot from just above the leftt circle. The goal, scored on just the Flyers' third shot of the period, broke a 23-game personal goalless drought for VandeVelde dating back to last season. Ryan White and Luke Schenn got the assists at 14:20.
"That was definitely huge. Being down 3-0 is a pretty high mountain to climb but we bounced back. Me, Whitey and Belly, but Belly unfortunately got hurt. We had been playing well together and we got one back for the team," said VandeVelde.
The Flyers went to their first power play at 16:20 of the opening stanza on a defensive zone holding penalty on Cody Franson. Voracek had two good looks at the net on tape-to-tape passes from Giroux but shoveled the puck wide.
Shots in the first period were 11-7 Sabres.
Philadelphia started the second period with Nick Schultz taking a hooking penalty at the 19-second mark. They survived the kill. Buffalo continued to press the attack through the first 11 minutes of the period before the Flyers started to mount some attack time and completed several stretch passes.
Perhaps the best Philadephia scoring chance of the second period belonged to Voracek. Still hunting for his first goal of the season, Voracek was not able to finish off an opportunity from point-blank range.
"It’s just kind of getting old. I’ve got to put pucks in the net. It’s been eight games," said Voracek. "Obviously, it’s a little frustrating but I’ve got to stick with it. Obviously, I’m not happy that I get two second assists in one game and one primary but the bottom line you need to make a difference in the game today as a line and that might have made a difference.”
The Flyers had their second power play opportunity of the game at 12:06 of the middle frame when Matt Moulson went off for hooking. Once again, Philly came up empty.
Shots in the middle period were 14-13 in the Sabres' favor; 25-20 for the Sabres through two periods.
For most of the first eight minutes of the third period, the Flyers had trouble sustaining any sort of attack, and it took multiple tough saves by Mason with attackers going to the net to keep the deficit manageable.
Suddenly, the Flyers broke loose at drew even in the game as Brayden Schenn finished off a cross-ice pass from Laughton at 8:14 to forge a 2-2 deadlock. Luke Schenn got a secondary assist on the play.
The reprieve lasted all on 1:24. The Sabres passed the puck D-to-D and McCabe's shot drifted through heavy traffic into the net at 9:38. Cody Fransson and Larsson drew the assists.
As time ticked down to 5:47 remaining in the third period, the Flyers iced the puck after being pinned in their own end for an extended period of time. Hakstol opted not to take a timeout. The Flyers managed not to get scored upon despite Laughton losing the ensuing defensive zone faceoff to Brian Gionta. A blocked shot by Evgeny Medvedev and an offside by the Sabres gave the Flyers a reprieve.
Hakstol called timeout with 1:10 left and on offensive zone faceoff coming up with Mason pulled for an extra attacker and the Flyers skating 6-on-5. After one good look at the net did not produce a goal, the Flyers retaining possession with Giroux, Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Mark Streit as the skaters on the ice.
Receiving a pass from Streit, Giroux's shot from the top of the left circle deflected off O'Reilly and then off Brayden Schenn into the net to re-the the game at 3-3. Giroux and Streit and got the assists at the 19:06 mark.
The game moved into overtime. With one point in the cash register, the Flyers had a golden opportunity to add a second as Sam Gagner and Laughton outnumbered the Sabres. John streteched out with his arms and legs in the crease to prevent Laughton from winning the game. Moments later, Colaiacovo found Girgensons and the game ended on his breakaway goal through the five-hole at 2:29 of OT.
“It’s entertaining, there’s no question," said Hakstol, whose team is now 1-2 in games decided during overtime. "I still believe it’s a better way to decide a game than the shootout, given that the opportunity of three-on-three is the right way to go. I’ve liked most of what we’ve done in our last couple of overtimes. Again, tonight you have a mental lapse where you drift when you don’t have full possession of the puck and it’s going to come back to hurt you and I think that got us tonight.”
For his part, Mason is like most goaltenders when it comes to all the open ice during 3-on-3: he's not a fan of it.
It’s not very goalie friendly," Mason said. "I wouldn’t mind a tie. That way you might feel a little better coming out of the game.”
The Flyers return to action on Thursday, hosting the New Jersey Devils while the Sabres are in Western Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Friday, the Flyers and Sabres will rematch in Buffalo.
FLYERS HONOR BRIERE
Prior to the start of Tuesday's game, the Flyers honored the recent retirement of longtime Buffalo and Philadelphia fan favorite Danny Briere. With his sons at his side, Briere soaked in a standing ovation and dropped the ceremonial first puck before being embraced by Flyers' captain Claude Giroux.
“From day one when I stepped off the plane, I felt at home here," Briere said after the first period. "Obviously, the kids grew up here. They’re teenagers now so whoever has kids will understand that you don’t move teenagers that easily, but we just fell in love with the place, we feel at home, so many friends, and the way we have been treated by the whole city, this feels like home that’s why.”
Following is personal Briere favorite memory from the regular season: During the stretch drive of Briere's first season with the Flyers (2007-08), the team was in a 3-9-3 skid over their previous 15 games and were in jeopardy of tumbling out of the playoff race. On March 6, 2008 the Tampa Bay Lightning came to Philly.
Suffering from a shoulder injury, Briere was questionable to doubtful for the game despite officially being a game-time decision. He was in obvious discomfort during warmups but decided to play, anyway.
The Flyers fell behind early and had no energy. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, Briere and R.J. Umberger broke in a 2-on-1 counterattack off a Tampa turnover. Briere buried a shot upstairs to tie the game. He was in so much discomfort that he couldn't even lift his arm to do his signature skyward fist-pump goal celebration.
Philadelphia fed off the energy and won the game. The Flyers righted their ship, went on to reach the playoffs and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final. Briere, of course, was a big part of that playoff run as he contributed nine goals and 16 points in 17 games. Two years later, Briere was even better during the Flyers' run to within two victories of the Stanley Cup.
That night against Tampa was the beginning of a turning point in Briere's career, in terms of his level of acceptance among Flyers fans. People started to realize what a competitor he was and how much heart he had to go along with his scoring prowess.
After that game, Flyers then-coach John Stevens uttered a quote that prophetically encapsulated what Briere meant to the team throughout his tenure.
"If there was any way Danny could play, he wanted to play and I thought that was terrific and just an indication of how much he cares," said Stevens.
Meanwhile, Briere himself humbly described why he decided to play through such obvious pain.
"All I wanted to do was that, if I could come in and provide a little spark, no matter how, get us two [points]. That's all I was looking to do," said Briere.
In the years that followed, Briere provided many a spark -- both big and little -- to his team. He will go down in franchise annals as one of the team's best players in big-game situations, one of the best teammates anyone could have hoped to be fortunate to play alongside and as someone who always gave back all he had to give both on and off the ice.