Buffalo, NY- The Sabres hosted the Flyers Sunday night in a nationally televised game on NBC Sports. Plenty of fans braved the sub-zero degree temperatures to support the home town club that’s been mired in 30th place for much of the season. Most were looking for an honest effort from the team and a firsthand look at the newest member, defenseman Zach Bogosian acquired from the Winnipeg Jets last Wednesday. Philadelphia however wasted little time in taking the spirits out of the crowd early.
Matt Read redirected a shot from the point to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. It was his 5th goal of the season and was his 4th point in his last four games played. The goal came at 3:19 of the opening period. Wayne Simmonds assisted on the goal, his sixth point in as many games. Heading into Buffalo the Flyers have been able to muster at least a point in their last 8 games played. The Sabres meanwhile were moving on from the recent trades involving three players in Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and Jhonas Enroth.
The slow start for Buffalo was concerning to Head coach Ted Nolan. The team lost two days of practice since their last game. It showed, the Flyers put 15 shots on goal to the Sabres 5. Michal Neuvirth kept the team in the game. The shot that beat him was a redirection and could have eluded two goaltenders.
Not sure what Nolan said to the team in between periods but it was effective. The Sabres came out flying in the 2nd. At one point they had a 7-1 edge in SOG, finishing the period 11-9 in that category. They received a gift at 12:25 when two Flyers were called for different infractions. Claude Giroux drew the initial penalty for Hi-sticking, but then Chris Stewart was tripped up by Braydon Coburn as the Sabres winger was about to skate in all alone on Flyers goaltender Ray Emery. Buffalo had a two-man advantage. The Flyers PK is ranked 28th in the league, almost as bad as the Sabres. In the closing minute of the power play Nikita Zadorov’s blast from the blue-line rifled through the Philly net-minder, his 3rd goal of the year. It was also Zadorov’s seventh point (1G, 6A) in his last seven games.
Just prior to Zadorov’s blast Buffalo gave up a breakaway to Chris VandeVelde but Neuvirth was able to stop the short-handed attempt. Moments later the Sabres tied the game. At the end of the second Andre Benoit was whistled for interference. Looked like a makeup call by the officials but nevertheless it killed the Sabres momentum.
The 3rd period was played conservatively by both clubs. The Flyers failed to score on the power play opportunity that carried into the final period. They did convert just past the midway point when Michael Raffl tucked a puck past Neuvirth that proved to be the winner. On the play Mie Weber was caught up with his check behind the Sabres goal but his defensive partner was nowhere to be found which opened up the ice for Raffl. Accountability has not been a Sabres strong suit this year. Its why this team is last in the NHL.
They played a solid game for the most part, there are some shifts they would like to have back. This team didn’t quit though, they played hard down to the wire, and captain Brian Gionta was a wrecking ball in the final minutes. They ran out of time Sunday night.
Bogosian made his debut in a Buffalo uniform and he made the most of his new start. Wearing No. 47 for no apparent reason, finished with 11 hits, the most of any Sabres player this season and 24:49 of ice time, the most of any skater. He blocked 2 Flyers shots in the 3rd period. Johan Larsson was called up from Rochester earlier in the day and had 7 minutes of ice time, all at even strength. He wasn’t much of a factor and was on the ice for the Flyers go ahead goal in the 3rd. Cody Hodgson was back after being a healthy scratch for the prior 2 games. Coach Nolan said he noticed an improvement in his game. He finished with 3 shots on goal and had a hit but had even less ice time than Larsson.
During the game Buffalo played tributes to Stafford and Myers but not to Enroth? Unless I was up grabbing a coffee and missed it.
They also held a moment of silence for Steve Montador who at age 35 was found dead earlier in the day. Montador spent two seasons with the Sabres (2009-2011) and appeared in 163 games (regular season and playoffs). He started his career in Calgary as an undrafted free agent before being traded to Florida. He signed on with the Anaheim Ducks and was then traded at the deadline to the Boston Bruins. He came to Buffalo shortly thereafter before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Buffalo heads to New Jersey for a game versus the Devils Tuesday and then a rematch in Philadelphia with the Flyers on Thursday.