Flyers Erase Three-Goal Deficit to Beat Sabres, Giroux Nets OT Winner

Flyers Erase Three-Goal Deficit to Beat Sabres, Giroux Nets OT Winner

In their first meeting with the Buffalo Sabres this season, the Flyers got to Ryan Miller early and often, sending the netminder to the bench in favor of Jhonas Enroth. Enroth slammed the door, and the Sabres nearly came back from being down 3-0, losing 3-2. Wednesday night in Buffalo was basically the opposite, aside from the fact that the Flyers still won.

The Sabres owned the early stages of the first period, and Miller looked dialed in and ready to give shooters fits all night. At the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov was shaky on a few shots, and the Sabres netted three unanswered in the first period. The Flyers probably saved Bryz's night with a Max Talbot goal in the waning seconds of the frame, and Peter Laviolette stuck with his #1.

After that, the Flyers owned most of the rest of the game, scoring three more to go up 4-3 in the second period. The Sabres tied it late in the third though, and seemed to have the momentum in overtime before Claude Giroux struck with the winner.

Below, a look at the goals and highlights, with links to video of Ville Leino headhunting and a pair of Flyer Fights.

Giroux had a superstar All-Star shining star star of the game night. He assisted on three second period goals as his line dominated with pressure in all three zones, then took over the NHL scoring lead with his overtime winner. G passed Phil Kessel for the moment with his 36th point.

As much as huge momentum swings, turnovers were the defining element of this game for both sides. There was some sloppiness for sure, but to pin it entirely on the team turning the puck over would be to neglect some very nice work by both defenses to cause them.

GOAL SUMMARY
Sabres Gash Flyers for Three in a Row
Braydon Coburn's TO on the first goal of the game wasn't one of them though. That was pretty much all on him. On their second kill of the night, Coburn paused a moment too long as he looked for a breakout pass, perhaps forgetting that there were two Sabres between him and his own net. One of the two, Luke Adam, picked his pocket and started a pretty nice tic-tac-toe play that saw him feed Zack Kassian, who put a soft drop back to Ville Leino. Yes, the game opened with the former Flyer finding the back of the net for just the third time all season.

On the previous kill, the Flyers nearly scored after taking advantage of a great shorthanded counter attack. Looked like Coburn was hoping to spring another. The downside of having a dangerous kill…

The Sabres would score a pair of goals within the last 1:05 of the first period, both of which Bryzgalov probably wishes he can have back. The Sabres' second goal was a blistering shot by Kassian past Marc-Andre Bourdon, who probably screened it for a second. The third appeared to be deflected, but Bryz still appeared to have it before it fell in behind him. It came on a Sabres power play after a fairly dumb Andrej Meszaros penalty (easy for me to say, not always as easy as it looks to hit a man in motion before he's past you).

Neither goal was terrible, but it began to look like we might see Bob for the second period.

Flyers Find Twine, Life
But despite seeing two goals in the last 65 seconds of the period, we hadn't seen them all yet. Max Talbot scored with 1.5 on the clock, and even THAT wasn't the last of the first period action. Perhaps in an effort to wrest momentum control back to the Sabres before heading into the locker room, Corey Tropp tangled with Zac Rinaldo, and beat him pretty soundly.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, the fight didn't have the desired effect.

The Flyers, perhaps further inspired by birthday boy (47!) Peter Laviolette's intermission speech, came out swarming in the second. The G Line in particular was just nasty, but they weren't alone despite owning the scoring.

Miller's Run
Miller was once again run into, only this time it wasn't by an opponent. Amidst pressure by Wayne Simmonds, defenseman Brayden McNabb crashed into Miller, stripping him of his mask (which we're pretty sure is spring-loaded). Scott Hartnell tried to fire home the loose puck, but ended up catching Miller in the face with it. Miller was shaken up and bloodied, and the Flyers would take advantage for the rest of the period.

Marc-Andre Bourdon and War
Bourdon nearly cost them another man-advantage opportunity when he boarded Nathan Gerbe, drawing an easy call. However, Gerbe's teammate Matt Ellis quickly came to his defense, goading Bourdon into a fight. A damn good one at that. Noble as it was, and we'd have had our guy do the same thing were the jerseys reversed on the hit, Ellis was assessed an instigator penalty, negating Bourdon's minor. [View Fight Videos Here]

G Liners Take Over
A moment later, the Flyers scored their second goal, bringing them within a goal on a deflected shot. Kimmo Timonen put a knuckler on net, and rookie stud horse Matt Read deflected it past Miller, who was again pressured by Simmonds in the paint.

The Flyers kept the pressure up throughout the period, and Scott Hartnell tied the game with five minutes left in the frame. The goal came after Giroux stripped Tyler Ennis of the puck along the boards, then sent it over to Hartnell, who fired a shot off of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff's skate and past Miller.

Three minutes later, the line struck again to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead. They were active on the back-check, forced a turnover, and G and Hartnell fought hard for the puck in the neutral zone. Harts got the puck to Giroux, who found Jaromir Jagr before the Czech could leave the ice for a line change. Jagr put a nice move on, then ripped a wrist shot high on Miller to make it 4-3 good guys.  

Oh No...
The Sabres continued to wilt after that, and the Flyers went into protect mode in the third period. It looked like they had it won, but Lindy Ruff pulled his goalie for the extra skater with about a minute and a half left. Buffalo went on the attack, and the Flyers didn't match their pressure, standing flat-footed while Drew Stafford scored a back-breaker.

OT...
Fortunately, the Claude Giroux wasn't done impregnating the net just yet. Once again, a turnover led directly to a great scoring opportunity, when Marc-Andre Gragnani let loose a terrible pass in the back end of the Flyers zone with none other than Giroux in the vicinity. Is there anythi
ng better than the sight of G skating down the ice with nothing between him and a goalie?

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).