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.

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.

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?

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.