That was certainly a hockey game. The Philadelphia Flyers met the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo tonight in a matchup of two teams hungrier than ever for a win. The Flyers have been in a tailspin throughout March, and the Sabres have been in a historic losing streak, drawing the ire of much of the hockey fandom.
Still, the Sabres came out hungry in the first period, outworking the Flyers along the boards and in both ends of the ice. The Flyers managed a few good shots, but Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark was thoroughly un-phased as he fought off every attempt. On the other end, Brian Elliott was putting on a clinic making spectacular save after spectacular save keeping the score knotted at zeros despite continuous defensive lapses.
But the Moose could only do so much, as very late in the first Henri Jokiharju got the puck in wide open ice before picking his spot and slipping one between the wickets to put the Sabres up 1-0 going into the period break. Something the Sabres are very unfamiliar with this season.
After a last minute Scott Laughton delay of game resulted in a penalty, the Flyers found themselves on the backfoot immediately in the second frame. While the team would survive the disadvantage, Cody Eakin would cash in on a defensive miscommunication between Elliott and Travis Sanheim, putting the Sabres up two.
The Sabres clearly smelt blood in the water, as they would turn up the dial the rest of the period, resulting in even more lamp lighting when Tage Thompson picked up a rebound and dropped it back to a wide open Brandon Montour who would put it off the post and in, sending Buffalo into the period break up three, with the Flyers seemingly checked out.
In classic Flyers fashion, their best hockey of the game didn’t come until the game was seemingly over. The third period opened up fast with the Flyers pressing hard and pressing often. They managed to break up Ullmark’s shutout bid on a blast from Kevin Hayes that deflected off Rasmus Dahlin and found its way past the Sabres netminder, giving Philadelphia life.
The Flyers kept up the energy in a major way through the rest of the period. Several high danger chances eventually forced Buffalo to take a penalty, and while the Flyers couldn’t find twine on the man advantage, the goal came not too far after. And who but the captain Claude Giroux to reignite the fire after fantastic plays by all of Voracek, Couturier, and Provorov to give the Flyers a genuine chance to weasel back in this game by putting it within one.
A continued push by the Flyers granted them a man advantage again, and an electric powerplay resulted in a number of chances, but none managed to find their way past Ullmark. Prayers were cashed in and answered though, when Tage Thomspson shanked the empty net shot allowing Philadelphia to set up in Buffalo’s end and complete the comeback, scoring off a deflection by Sean Couturier to knot it up at three apiece.
The Flyers fan’s heart rate was not allowed to stall however, as the Sabres mounted a late period surge, but were unable to sneak one past Elliott, sending the second straight meeting of these teams to overtime.
And it certainly didn’t take long. Claude Giroux made a fantastic defensive play to give Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov a two on one going the other way. TK made a perfect pass, and Provy made the perfect shot to allow the Flyers to escape the Sabres with a W.
This is certainly a hard game to talk about. The Flyers looked terrible in every facet of the sport for two full periods. They were invisible offensively and lackadaisical defensively. Which is how a team that has been in a complete and utter tailspin managed to hang three unanswered.
But then everything shifted and the Flyers played like the team they should be, as they kicked the tar out of the hapless Buffalo team for the final 20 plus minutes. You can’t lean on your big names for a full period every game, but sometimes it works.
Ultimately, the Flyers played a miserable game. Any team other than this year’s Buffalo Sabres is probably a loss. Celebrate the win, because they’ve been few and far between, but you need to ask the Flyers to play a more complete game against a team like this.
The Flyers meet them again this Wednesday night, and they’ll be looking to have a game where they aren’t chasing for the bulk of the game.