Buffaloed: Special Teams Breakdowns, Questionable Calls Cost Flyers First Win

Buffaloed: Special Teams Breakdowns, Questionable Calls Cost Flyers First Win

The Flyers had a lot to overcome in order to pick up their
first points in the standings of the season on Sunday. They had to play on the
road roughly 18 hours removed from their first game of the season. They had
another flat first period that found them behind 1-0 coming out of the
intermission.

Then there were the six power plays they gave the Sabres, of
which they scored on three of to key a 5-2 victory in their home opener. Philadelphia drops to 0-2-0.

There is no doubt that the Flyers’ penalty killing unit share a lot
of the responsibility in both losses, as they have allowed opponents to convert
on five of nine chances (55.6%). However, one must wonder what might have been
in Buffalo were it not for a series of downright terrible calls by the officiating
crew, specifically the two that wiped goals off the board.

The first bad call came late in the opening frame, right as
the Flyers were finally starting to get their legs in under them. Down 1-0,
Luke Schenn ripped a wicked slapper off of netminder Ryan Miller, who left the
puck sitting right on his front porch. As Miller tried to poke it away, Ruslan
Fedotenko came crashing into the play, sending the disk wobbling through the
air and into the goal.

But Fedotenko bumped Miller ever so slightly in performing
this action, while the goalie – whether out of embellishment or desperation –
slid backward into his own net. This apparently was enough to warrant a
goaltender interference call, and the score was waved off.

It was an obviously blown call upon second look. Miller was
barely breathed on, let alone interfered with, and Fedotenko wasn’t even in the crease or anything like that,
yet a goal was erased.

It would not be the last.

The Flyers did take a 2-1 lead
early in the second period, but were unable to stay out of the penalty box, and
eventually the game started to get away from them. It was 4-2 with under two
minutes remaining in the third when head coach Peter Laviolette pulled Ilya
Bryzgalov for an extra skater – also when the men in the striped shirts would
strike again.

Sean Couturier won the faceoff, and the Flyers succeeded in generating some instant pressure with an extra man. After a couple quick passes to create some space, Claude Giroux snapped the puck on net, it hit Scott Hartnell in front, and Wayne Simmonds sort of jabbed it toward the goal.

Once again Miller was unable to control, only
this time he wasn’t exactly sure of where it was. He thought the puck was
covered, but it was actually trickling into the net as chaos ensued in front of
him. This was all too much for the referee, who from a far side angle –
his vision blocked – whistled the play dead just as the biscuit was crossing
the goal line.

What could’ve been a 4-3 or even 4-4 game heading to
overtime remained a hopeless two-goal deficit, which seconds later grew to
three on an empty netter.

There were other plays where we could perhaps be critical of
the officials, though those might be nitpicking. There is absolutely no denying
they had a direct role in costing the Flyers tallies on these two particular plays
however.

As we mentioned at the top, the loss can’t entirely be
blamed on those non-goals. Bryzgalov had practically no chance on two of the
three power-play goals, one of which appeared to deflect off of Kimmo Timonen’s
skate. Another occurred when a shift change went awry leading to a breakaway at the end of a 5-on-3. Schenn was notably in the box for two of
these, as well as a 4-on-4.

That said, in a short season where every point matters that
much more, it’s hard to watch one slip away in part because a third
party got involved. Would have been nice to see how things played out had every goal actually
been counted.

(Videos courtesy CBS Sports via Puck Daddy)

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).