(Philadelphia, PA) – The Flyers erased an early 2-0 deficit, but the Buffalo Sabres scored three unanswered goals in the third period to secure a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center on Tuesday night.
The Sabres pulled to within a single point in the standings of the eighth-seeded Flyers in the battle for playoff position. Philadelphia has 74 points to Buffalo’s 73, and each team has 15 games remaining in the regular season.
A couple of defensive lapses cost the Flyers a pair of goals early in the third period, although coach John Stevens was fuming after the game about the eventual game-winning score.
On the play, Derek Roy got behind the Flyers’ defense at the blue line and sped in for a breakaway goal at 1:06. Stevens felt that the Sabres should have been whistled for a too-many-men-on-the-ice minor.
“[It] was a four-on-four, and their fifth guy was the guy at the far blue line. It’s unbelievable,” said Stevens. “They had five guys on the ice by 60 feet. The [referees] totally missed the call. I am trying to figure out how Roy got so far in the open there.
“[Braydon Coburn] goes in, [Scottie] Upshall covers, there are four guys in front of us and now there is a fifth guy at the far blue line.”
“I didn’t see [Roy], and from what I’ve been told I think they might have even had five guys out there, but I didn’t see him,” added Upshall.
Just 18 seconds later, Jason Pominville snuck in towards Martin Biron and easily redirected a feed from Nolan Pratt to give the Sabres a 4-2 lead. Both goals came during four-on-four play.
“We’ve had success on the four-on-four, and [we give up] one goal, and then we give up another one right after that,” said Biron. “It kind of took our energy away, and that was the game right there.”
Maxim Afinogenov skated around the net and beat Biron to the short side at 5:57 to cap the scoring. Antero Niittymaki replaced Biron in net after the goal.
“After [the third goal] they blew the game open. There was no excuse after that,” said Stevens.
The game was the Flyers’ first loss in regulation since February 21, as the club had gone 3-0-2 in its past five games.
Like their previous matchup with Buffalo in which they fell behind 3-0, the Flyers had to dig out of an early hole.
Trailing 2-0 in the first period, Upshall got Philadelphia on the board with his 11th goal of the season. Jeff Carter won an offensive zone draw to Kimmo Timonen, who flipped one towards the net. The puck deflected on its way to Upshall, who fired it in past Ryan Miller at 14:34 during a four-on-four situation.
That would be all the Flyers would get, however.
“I didn’t think we did the right things to stay ahead and to carry that momentum that we had going into the third,” said Upshall. “Unfortunately this was our biggest game of the year, and knowing that, we’ve got to turn things around quickly.”
The Flyers tied the game on a Steve Downie goal at 5:51. Downie, who was a healthy scratch in the club’s previous game on Sunday in New York, led the rush from the Flyers’ defensive zone after Jaroslav Modry blocked a shot in the high slot. Downie’s shot deflected over the shoulder of Miller for the rookie’s sixth goal of the season.
Buffalo took the early lead when Henrik Tallinder’s slap shot deflected off of Vaclav Prospal and then Jason Pominville just 62 seconds into the game. Afinogenov made it a 2-0 game when he cut to the net from the boards and slipped it through Biron’s five-hole.
The game got nasty towards the end of the first period, as both teams recognized the magnitude of the game. Miller took exception to Scott Hartnell whacking at a loose puck in front of the Buffalo crease and took a swing at the big forward. The scrum resulted in a Flyers power play, but they failed to convert.
Late in the first period, Upshall drilled Tallinder with a clean hit behind the Buffalo net, leaving the Buffalo forward motionless and face-down on the ice. Tallinder had to be helped to his feet and into the Sabres’ locker room and did not return.
Philadelphia was also hit with yet another injury before the game, but fortunately Danny Briere’s slight shoulder strain should not keep him out of the lineup for long. The Flyers hope to get defenseman Derian Hatcher and forward Joffrey Lupul back in time for the weekend.
Briere was the hero of the previous game between the two teams, scoring the deciding goal in a shootout that ended Philadelphia’s 10-game winless streak.
The Flyers host Tampa Bay on Thursday and the New York Islanders on Saturday. Both games begin at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast locally on Comcast SportsNet.
The Flyers are 14-13-6 at home. … The game was the fourth and final game against Buffalo this season. The Sabres won three of them. … Philadelphia is 28-21-8 against the Eastern Conference and 7-7-3 against the Northeast Division. … The Flyers are 2-17-2 when scoring two or fewer goals.
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1 - 0 BUF
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2 - 0 BUF
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2 - 1 BUF
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2 - 2 Tie
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