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.

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top-two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Our recap of Tuesday's underwhelming performance by the Flyers in Winnipeg.

Their Tragic Number is now 13, meaning the number of points either lost by the Flyers or accrued by the second wild card -- Toronto -- that totals 13 will eliminate the Flyers from the playoffs.

Sean Couturier said it best prior to the road trip: Unless the Flyers won in Winnipeg, then anything positive they achieved in coming from behind to beat Carolina was wasted.

And it was.  

If you watched the telecast with John Boruk, Alfonso Morganti and myself, you already know how I feel about the loss.

But for those of you who are gluttons for further punishment, here's 10 Things I think, I think, as Bill Lyon used to say:

1. A couple players gave everything they had to make a difference in this game. Radko Gudas had eight of the Flyers' 17 hits. Michael Del Zotto had five strong shots from the point, two of which were almost goals. Shayne Gostisbehere had four shots, two of which almost gave them a goal.

2. The Jets had five injured defensemen out of their lineup, which meant the Flyers' forwards should have been attacking them at the net. Again, the only offense generated for 50 minutes was from the point and not down low, where the Jets were vulnerable.

3. Valterri Filppula matched up against Patrick Laine and held him -- with help from Steve Mason -- to no points, a task in itself. Laine generated five shots and two prime scoring chances that Mason took care of.

4. Jets rookie defenseman Julian Melchiori had played just eight NHL games and had a total of four shots. He had three in the first period alone Tuesday and tied Laine with a team-high five for the game. He was more determined to make something happen than most of the Flyers. That should embarrass coach Dave Hakstol, who insisted the Flyers come out strong. They didn't.

5. Winnipeg moved up and down the ice well in transition. They came into the zone with speed and spread their attack out. Blake Wheeler's goal that made it 2-1 in the third period was the result of the Jets' precise puck movement from Mathieu Perreault to Mark Scheifele to Wheeler that demonstrated nothing moves faster on the ice than the speed of the puck. Wheeler got the puck with a wide-open look inside the right circle. The Flyers didn't have a single play during the game that mimicked that rush.

6. Although the Flyers' penalty kill units gave up a 10th goal in their last 24 chances, they shut down the Jets' the final four power plays of the game, including the four-minute double-minor to Ivan Provorov in the second period. The PK got no help from the power play (0 for 3).

7. Mason had four saves during the Jets' four-minute power play, which should have given the Flyers some momentum for the remainder of the second period and into the third. He also had a terrific stick save on Laine in the slot after the PP that left the rookie so angry he was jamming his stick violently into the ground on the Jets' bench.

8. Following up on that, why were the Flyers hesitant in the third period, tied 1-1, while the Jets peppered Mason at the outset? Where's that sense of desperation Hakstol's team should have shown? This is precisely what happened in Boston a few weeks ago. Game tied going into the third and instead of playing for two points they absolutely had to have, the Flyers were playing to get the game into overtime and earn at least one. That strategy failed spectacularly in Boston when the Bruins won the game in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation and failed again Tuesday.

9. Hakstol talked about effort and determination, yet the numbers say otherwise. With 13:34 left in regulation, the Flyers had just two shots in the period. Two! In the final seven minutes of the game, their sense of urgency finally kicked in when they kept the puck in Winnipeg's zone to the end and even scored shorthanded. That again raises this question: Where was that urgency at the period's start when it was 1-1 and not 3-1?

10. Finally, the Flyers had three power plays in this defeat. During their second power play, trailing 2-1, Winnipeg's lowly PK unit generated two shorthanded chances and cleared the zone four times. On the Flyers' final power play -- they trailed 3-1 at that point -- Hakstol pulled Mason to create a 6-on-4. The Flyers generated several scoring chances. They have scored three times this season under that scenario. Young goalie Michael Hutchinson, who had a 4.06 goals against average head-to-head against the Flyers, had a couple of terrific saves, including one on Wayne Simmonds in the slot. Where was that pressure on Hutchinson earlier in the period? Or earlier in the game?