Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Sabres 3

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Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Sabres 3

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Vincent Lecavalier's goal with 14.8 seconds to play in regulation gave the Flyers a thrilling 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Mostly stifled through two periods, the offenses for the Sabres and Flyers found their footing in a thrilling third period. Tied at 1 after 40 minutes, the teams traded goals and leads over the final frame, including a tour de force from Scott Hartnell. The big forward had a goal and two assists on the night after calling his team's recent play "soft" earlier in the day.

The Flyers didn't have to face one Olympic goaltender, only to nearly be foiled by another. Swedish Olympic netminder Jhonas Enroth filled in admirably for Team USA goalie Ryan Miller and stifled the Flyers' attack over 40 minutes at the First Niagara Center.

The game was chock full of power plays -- each team had four by the end of the second period -- but goaltending was the prime component of the teams going a combined 1 for 10. Philadelphia went 2 for 6 with goals from Jakub Voracek and Hartnell scoring with the man advantage.

The Flyers showed good jump to start the first and second periods and largely executed their plan of winning board battles and putting traffic in front of the Sabres' net, but Enroth was fantastic.

His performance included a Save of the Year candidate during the first period, as Claude Giroux dangled past Ville Leino and Enroth could not move to his right with Michael Raffl tangled with Brian Flynn at the top of the crease.

Giroux held onto the puck and sent a backhand toward the empty net, but a stickless Enroth dove back and to the right, using his blocker to punch the puck wide.

Bottom-dwelling Buffalo's lost its first regulation game in its last nine contests, falling to 6-1-2.

The goals
The Flyers talked about winning the little battles and being in good position, which turned out to be all talk on the Sabres' first goal. Matt D'Agostini and Steve Ott both won individual battles on the wall and Cody Hodgson was unguarded as he coasted into the slot for Ott's pass, then moving around a committed Steve Mason before sliding the puck into the right of the net.

The goal came at the 6:59 mark against a Sabres team being outscored 39-13 in first periods. Not the prescription for a team looking for a strong start.

Wayne Simmonds twice stopped at Enroth's left post to open a early second-period power play, but the Flyers were rewarded for their active power play moments later when Simmonds pushed a pass to Jakub Voracek through two Sabres defenders and the winger fired home from the goaltender's left to tie the score at the 1:40 mark with his 13th goal of the season. Hartnell picked up the second assist. It was the Flyers' third straight game with a power-play goal and their fifth in six contests.

The Sabres retook the lead when Ott's pass to the top of the crease found the stick of a diving D'Agostini, who tipped the puck over Mason for just his second goal of the season.

The Flyers got the little bit of luck they needed to tie the game when Enroth got tangled with defenseman Mark Pysyk at his right post and couldn't recover to stop a wide open Brayden Schenn at point blank range. Schenn's 12th of the year came from Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros.

Hartnell then gave the Flyers their first lead with his power-play goal at the 15:53 mark of the third, only to have Tyler Ennis put the game even again 54 seconds later with a high shot from the faceoff circle to the Mason's left.

Lecavalier ripped a slap shot home from just inside the blue line to give the Flyers the two points.

The near goals
Leino swept a Matt Read shot off the goal line 12 minutes into the second period, while Buffalo's Zemgus Girgensons' snap shot on a late first period two-on-one beat Mason but rocketed off the post and nearly out of the Flyers' zone.

Active whistles
The crew of Gord Dwyer, Wes McCauley, Brad Kovachik and John Grandt was ready to call penalties, as each team had three power plays by the game's midpoint.

Hartnell harmed
An attempted slap shot from the Sabres with about seven minutes gone in the second period caught Hartnell on the left leg and the big winger limped to the bench and directly down the tunnel. He later returned to the game.

Scrambling to recover
The Flyers seemed caught off guard by Hodgson's opening goal and Meszaros took a hooking penalty when Leino stickhandled the puck between the defenseman's legs moments after the goal. Fortunately, Mason was there for some quality stops over the two minutes, including a denial of Hodgson on the doorstep.

Enroth early
Giroux and Hartnell came hard out of the gates with numerous hits and scoring chances in the first period, but Enroth was there for the Sabres.

The pair were particularly effective on the power play. Early, Giroux found Hartnell, whose low one-timer went wide to the left of Enroth, followed by Hartnell deflecting a latter chance right into the crest of the Sabres goaltender on the same power play.

Aggressive start
Before the game, Simmonds mentioned the plan for Miller was to crowd the crease and "take away his eyes." The plan didn't change for Enroth, as the Flyers were swarming early and often.

This was far from the "soft" team Hartnell described after back-to-back losses to the Lightning and Rangers. The Flyers hit the boards hard early and good work along the lower right boards by Giroux forced Pysyk into a tripping call 3:19 into the game.

Next up
Back to Philadelphia and a Thursday night date with the Predators, who the Flyers beat 3-2 in Nashville on Nov. 30 behind regulation goals from Giroux and Sean Couturier and a shootout winner from Lecavalier.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.