Sloppy second period dooms Flyers in loss to Sabres

Sloppy second period dooms Flyers in loss to Sabres

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Flyers have been at their best in the second period this season.

Except when they play the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres scored three times in the second period of Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the visiting Flyers (see Instant Replay). They also outscored the Flyers, 3-0, in the second period of their previous meeting on Oct. 25 at the Wells Fargo Center, before the Flyers came back for the 4-3 shootout win.

In their other 40 games, the Flyers have outscored opponents, 53-34, in the second period. They rank second in the NHL in second-period scoring behind the New York Rangers.

The Flyers were pleased with the way they played for two-thirds of Tuesday night’s game. But the wayward second doomed them to their ninth loss in 11 games.

“First and third, we played some good hockey and the second period was a little different,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We didn’t support each other as much. First and third period, we played as a unit of five. It makes our job a lot easier when we play together.”

Sam Reinhart’s power-play goal on a tight-angle wrist shot from the left side of the net gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 5:15 into the second period. The Flyers’ struggles snowballed from there.

“After we gave up the PP goal against, from there we didn’t check well the rest of the period. That was the difference,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Coming back into the zone on our rush coverage, we didn’t sort.”

That’s how the Sabres got their second goal 3:24 later. William Carrier was uncovered skating up the left side and beat Giroux to a rebound for a wrist shot that Steve Mason had little chance to stop.

“Unfortunately, in the second there we were off our game plan and we paid for it,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said.

Evander Kane gave Buffalo a 3-0 lead with just nine seconds left in the third period. Kane came up with the puck after it bounced off MacDonald’s skate and whistled a high wrist shot past Mason.

“It’s a tough one to give up,” MacDonald said. “Anything late in the third period like that. There’s a big difference between being down two and three going into the third. We had the same mindset going out. We knew we had to battle back. But the third one made it tougher.”

The Flyers were able to score three goals in the third period the last time the two teams met. But on Tuesday, they could only muster a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn — after Mason was pulled to make it 6-on-4 — with 2:07 remaining.

“In the third, we pressed hard,” MacDonald said. “But it was too little, too late.”

Mason said the Flyers’ second-period wounds were self-inflicted.

“We did it to ourselves,” Mason said. “We were sloppy and they came with speed off the rush and we’ve got to do a better job in the second period overall. I think when we go back and look at the tape, it was a lot of what we did wrong in the second and not what they did to force us. It was all our own doing.”

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers (33-31-8) at Wild (44-22-6)
8 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7:30

A four-game road trip takes a daunting turn Thursday night when the Flyers play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Hazardous road
You thought things were already ugly?

It looks like it could get much, much worse.

The Flyers now visit three of the NHL's top five clubs, starting with the Wild, followed by the Blue Jackets and the Penguins.

Those three are a combined 137-58-21 overall and 79-24-5 at home.

And it's safe to say the Flyers don't have any momentum heading into this gauntlet. They're coming off a 3-2 loss to the Jets, a non-contender decimated by injuries, and are 4-15-3 on the road since Dec. 19 with a minus-36 goal differential.

"We need to have a better effort," Steve Mason said postgame Tuesday. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it."

2. Hole gets deeper
With a win over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs moved past the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, making Boston the current leader for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot at 82 points.

The Flyers, with 74 points, trail the Bruins, Islanders (80), Lightning (77) and Hurricanes (75), who have a game in hand, as well. Oh, and the Panthers are just one point behind the Flyers.

Ten regular-season games remain and Dave Hakstol's group needs a miracle.

In search of some type of spark, the Flyers will strut out a different look against the Wild.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Matt Read said Wednesday. "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."

3. A look at the Wild
Minnesota, which went 30-6-3 from the start of December to the end of February, has cooled off a bit but is still one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.

The Wild are 3-8-0 in March. For the season, however, they rank among the league's top 10 in goals per game (3.22 -- second), goals against per game (2.47 -- tied for sixth), power-play percentage (21.3 -- ninth) and penalty-kill percentage (83.8 -- seventh).

Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker all have 20 or more goals, while netminder Devan Dubnyk has been a top-five goalie at 37-18-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Jakub Voracek has no goals and an assist in his last six games for a minus-5 rating. When he's not providing offense, the Flyers predictably struggle. The good thing: Voracek owns 16 points in 18 career games against Minnesota.

Wild: Ryan Suter has been a stud for the Wild. The defenseman leads the NHL as a plus-34 and is third with 27:07 of ice time per game. The 32-year-old is Minnesota's backbone and the Wild are 21-6-1 in games that he has at least one point.

5. This and that
• Mason will make his 11th start in the last 12 games. He is 7-6-1 lifetime against Minnesota with a 2.59 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

• Dubnyk is 2-4-1 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Brandon Manning is back in the lineup for Michael Del Zotto (see Skate Update). Manning missed the last fives games with a shoulder injury.

• Former Flyer Ryan White is out for the Wild with an illness.

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Facing a critical road game in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Flyers will welcome back a key defenseman to their lineup.

Brandon Manning, who has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury, will return and pair with Radko Gudas on the blue line.

“We’re playing a heavy team tonight,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They’ve got some size up front. They’re a heavy team down low. So, we’ll need that pair to play that way. They’ve got to be an abrasive pair and they have to be on the heavy side defensively.”

Michael Del Zotto will be the odd man out as the Flyers have seven healthy defensemen again. Manning, with three goals and seven assists in 57 games this season, said he’s not worried about conditioning or the injury.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Manning said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. Did some contact a few days ago and not even thinking about it.”

Toronto’s win in Columbus on Tuesday night allowed the Maple Leafs to surpass Boston in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins now hold the No. 8 spot in the playoff race with 82 points with nine games remaining. The Flyers are eight points back, with three teams in between, and 10 games left in the season.

Their play on the road is one big reason why the Flyers are out of a playoff spot. They are 12-20-4 on the road this season, tied for the second-fewest road wins among Eastern Conference teams. They’re winless in their last six road games (0-5-1) as they play the second game of a four-game trip.

“I don’t think there’s panic,” Manning said. “I think the focus is on each and every night, not really looking too far down the road. Obviously, the last couple weeks, we’ve probably given up points we don’t want to give up and put ourselves in a pretty tough spot. But we got a good group of guys in here, and guys that have played pro hockey long enough that know what it’s like.”

With Del Zotto's being scratched for Manning, Nick Schultz will play what could be his final game in the Xcel Energy Center, where he spent 10 seasons with the Wild. Schultz, a second-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2000, ranks second in franchise history with 743 games played.

Hakstol said Schultz’s history wasn’t a factor in keeping the defenseman in the lineup.

“He’s filled his role well the last few games,” Hakstol said. “He’s been good in that role with Ghost. So, he’s staying in for that reason.”

Goaltender Steve Mason will start for the 11th time in 12 games. He has a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his last 10 games.

Lineup
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmons
Schenn-Couturier-Weise
Konecny-Bellemare-VandeVelde

D: Provorov-MacDonald
Schultz-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas

G: Mason