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.

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbeliveable skill,” Simmonds said. “He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”