Flyers explode for 6 even-strength goals in crucial win over Sabres

Flyers explode for 6 even-strength goals in crucial win over Sabres

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Power plays have propelled the Flyers to most of their victories this season. On Tuesday night, they flexed their even-strength muscle.

The Flyers scored all of their goals in 5-on-5 situations in a 6-3 victory over the Sabres (see Instant Replay). It was the third six-goal game of the season for the Flyers, and the first time they scored that many goals at even strength.

Entering Tuesday night, the Flyers had been outscored 127-91 in 5-on-5 situations and had scored 69 percent of their goals at even strength, the lowest rate in the NHL.

What did the Flyers do differently against the Sabres?

"I wouldn't be able to put my finger on it," captain Claude Giroux said. "I think we've been playing well 5-on-5. We're not changing anything. We're playing the same. We're just getting the results now. The pucks are going in and we are getting traffic and our goals are around the net."

"Tonight shows what we're capable of 5-on-5," said rookie Travis Konecny, who had a goal and an assist in the third period in his second game back after missing nine with knee and ankle injuries. "We moved the puck well and we just stuck to our game."

In dominating at even strength, the Flyers made up for a lackluster special teams performance. They went scoreless on three early power plays and are now 0 for 13 with the man advantage over the past three games. Meanwhile, the Sabres needed only 18 seconds of power-play time to score their first two goals.

But after successfully killing a penalty midway through the second period, the Flyers took control of the game, scoring four goals over the next 15 minutes (see feature highlight).

"We won a lot of battles and cycled the puck down low hard," said Sean Couturier, who tallied two assists. "We kind of beat guys down low and brought the puck to the net hard after so it's a little different and it paid off tonight."

Defensemen Radko Gudas and Michael Del Zotto were on the ice for five of the Flyers' six goals. Gudas had a goal and two assists for his first three-point night of the season and first multi-point game since Nov. 17. Del Zotto assisted on two goals for his first multi-point game of the season. Both had season-high plus-five ratings.

"These nights don't come for me very often," Gudas said. "If I can contribute for the team, it's very fun for me and it makes the game extra special."

Giroux scored for the first time in 13 games when he knocked in a rebound of Del Zotto's shot from the point late in the second period to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead.

"It's good to see him score, but I think he could have buried one the last couple of games," Gudas said. "The bounces just didn't go his way."

Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Chris VandeVelde also scored for the Flyers. Ten different players had points.

"It's a boost for the confidence," Couturier said. "Everyone contributing, we've got all four lines rolling and that's what we need the rest of the year if we want to make the playoffs."

The Flyers have now earned seven points over their last four games. With 70 points on the season, they remain three behind the Islanders for the final wild-card spot. They are one point behind Toronto, which they visit on Thursday.

"This week is definitely the biggest week of the year to date," Konecny said. "I'm sure there will be more of these as we go through the end of the season here. It's important and it's big that we're getting wins like that and we're starting to play our game."

Instant Replay: Flyers 6, Sabres 3

Instant Replay: Flyers 6, Sabres 3

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Flyers picked up two crucial points in the standings and earned a point for the fourth straight game with a 6-3 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday night.

Winning in regulation for just the fourth time in their last 18 road games, the Flyers got off to a flying start on this critical stretch of their road trip and kept pace in a close race for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

The Flyers took control of the game in the second period, netting three goals on eight shots. They scored six even-strength goals for the first time this season.

Captain Claude Giroux scored for the first time in 13 games. Radko Gudas had a goal and two assists, Jordan Weal and rookie Travis Konecny each had a goal and an assist. Matt Read and Chris VandeVelde also scored and Sean Couturier and Michael Del Zotto tallied two assists apiece.

Notable goals
Giroux broke his scoring drought with 1:58 remaining in the second period when he knocked in the rebound of Del Zotto's shot from the point. The Sabres challenged that Wayne Simmonds interfered with goaltender Robin Lehner on the play, but the goal was upheld on replay.

A fortunate bounce led to the Flyers' go-ahead goal. Jakub Voracek's shot from the point hit Weal's left skate and ricocheted into the net with 6:12 left in the second period. Officials determined Weal did not intentionally kick the puck, and Buffalo did not challenge the ruling.

Konecny assisted on VandeVelde's goal and scored his eighth of the season on consecutive shifts early in the third period.  

Gudas buried the Flyers' first shot of the second period. Read got his second goal in his last 39 games when he deflected Gudas' shot from the point 4:34 into the game.

Goalie report
With so much scoring, the Flyers didn't need too much from Steve Mason. He stopped 30 of 33 shots and allowed two power-play goals in his fourth straight start.

Power play
The Flyers continued their struggles to convert with the man advantage, going scoreless on three chances in the first 21 minutes. They are now 0 for 13 on the power play in the past three games. Buffalo entered the game ranked 29th in the NHL in penalty killing.

Penalty kill
The Sabres' power play was much sharper, needing only 18 seconds to generate a pair of tying goals. Evander Kane scored 15 seconds after Brayden Schenn went to the box for hooking in the first period. Jack Eichel scored off the faceoff following Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's interference penalty 7:11 into the second.

The Flyers successfully killed their next two penalties. The Sabres, who entered the night tied for the NHL lead in power-play success at 22.9 percent, have gone 5 for 10 on the power play against the Flyers this season.

Scratches
Defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy) and forwards Michael Raffl (left knee), Dale Weise (healthy) and Roman Lyubimov (healthy).

Up next
The Flyers continue their road trip Thursday in Toronto.

Flyers Skate Update: Hakstol not yet ready to move up Travis Konecny

Flyers Skate Update: Hakstol not yet ready to move up Travis Konecny

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Flyers held an optional skate Tuesday morning and coach Dave Hakstol indicated there will be no lineup changes as the team opens a three-game road trip against the Sabres at KeyBank Center.

Rookie forward Travis Konecny returned to the Flyers' lineup for Saturday's loss in Washington after missing nine games with knee and ankle injuries. He played on the fourth line.

Prior to his injury, Konecny spent most of his shifts on the second line, and sometimes the first, but Hakstol said he's not ready to move the 19-year-old up in the lineup yet.

"I think play will dictate that," Hakstol said. "The play of some of the guys that are in that top-nine group, so to speak, have played very well. It's a bit of a factor of how his play is and the sharpness of it. We liked the groups, the way they played in Washington. We'll make a change if and when his play dictates it."

Konecny recorded two shots on goal in 10:48 of ice time against Washington. His first two shifts were on power plays.

"Second and third period, he got more involved in the game," Hakstol said. "We don't have a whole lot of time to wait for his crispness and sharpness to come in. He's doing extra work on practice days and morning skates, so that will come back quickly for him."

Konecny was one of the last players to leave the ice Tuesday morning.

"I was just trying to do some extra stuff on my own," Konecny said. "Trying to get my hands back, get everything going again. It's been a while since I was in games."

Konecny said he is not approaching games any differently while playing on the fourth line.

"I'm playing the same game," he said. "I'm still trying to make things happen. I'm not going to change my game according to where I'm playing in the lineup."

Konecny said he is confident in the skills of linemates Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

"I've seen those guys both pull off some nice stuff," he said. "I'm hoping that we can get some chemistry and start feeding off each other and make some nice plays."

Playoff picture
The Flyers enter Tuesday's games sixth in the wild-card race, three points behind the Islanders for the final playoff spot. Their three opponents this week -- Buffalo, Toronto and Boston -- are all within five points of the final wild-card spot, as well.

"These three games ahead of us are really important and we need to bear down," Konecny said. "It's probably the biggest week of our season so far."

Every point is crucial, even if it comes in a loss, like Saturday's 2-1 overtime defeat against the Capitals.

"We played real well in Washington the other night and I think we need to do a lot more of the same," Hakstol said. "Everybody is disappointed to not get both [points] but we earned a good point there."

Sabres injuries
Buffalo will be without forward Kyle Okposo (ribs) for a second straight game. Okposo is second on the team with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists). Defenseman Dmitry Kulikove (upper body) has also been ruled out.

Projected lineup
F: Jordan Weal-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds

Brayden Schenn-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins-Sean Couturier-Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Travis Konecny

D: Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald

Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere

Michael Del Zotto-Radko Gudas

G: Steve Mason
Michal Neuvirth

Injured
Michael Raffl (lower body).

Scratches
Forwards Roman Lyubimov and Dale Weise, and defenseman Nick Schultz.