Flyers Hold Off Sabres 3-2 After Dominating Start
Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk scored just 13 seconds after Sean Couturier, giving Philadelphia a quick 2-0 lead.
The Philadelphia Flyers raced out to a 3-0 lead in fewer than seven minutes, then held on for the win despite freak bounces that gave the Buffalo Sabres a pair of goals and some momentum throughout the second and third periods.
Sean Couturier opened the scoring by positioning himself perfectly to take advantage when the rebound of an Andreas Lilja shot came free. The rookie settled the puck and buried it for the third goal of his season, with Lilja and Jakub Voracek picking up the assists. The goal came just 103 seconds into the game and it took just 13 more ticks for the Flyers to strike again.
This time, a pass tipped by Zac Rinaldo shot across ice to James van Riemsdyk, who picked it up and raced into the offensive zone. Skating down the left wing, van Riemsdyk unleashed a left-handed wrister over the glove hand of Ryan Miller and beat him to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. Rinaldo got the only helper on the tally, van Riemsdyk’s fifth of the year, at 1:56 of the first period.
About four and a half minutes later, Scott Hartnell skated down that same left wing and unleashed a slap shot from just outside the faceoff dot, again getting the best of Miller’s glove hand. Hartnell’s fifth goal of the season came with assistance from Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, and spelled the end of the night for Miller.
Jhonas Enroth entered the game and shut down the Flyers the rest of the way, with a pair of fluke bounces giving the Sabres a chance by the end of the night. First, it was a carom off of the end wall and Ilya Bryzgalov’s equipment that put Buffalo on the board. Andrej Sekera was given credit for his first goal of the year for firing the point shot that hit the boards, then Bryzgalov’s glove or left blocker, before angling into the net. Jordan Leopold and Luke Adam garnered assists. The tally came at 7:49 of the second period, and gave the Sabres new life.
Nearing the middle of the third period, Thomas Vanek skated in on goal, but was forced behind the net by Braydon Coburn when he made a last second deke and couldn’t keep control of the puck. It bounced to the back left side of the goal, where Luke Adam threw a blind backhander towards the goal mouth.
It deflected off of the skate of Kimmo Timonen in on goal, where Bryzgalov had not reset himself and watched the puck slip past to pull the Sabres within one. Jason Pominville and Vanek assisted on Adam’s fourth goal of the campaign.
With 11:31 remaining, the Flyers hung on, highlighted by a Brzygalov save on Vanek with under 15 seconds remaining as the Sabres mounted a final, desperate flurry in the offensive zone. Bryzgalov ended up stopping 29 of the 31 shots that came his way to improve to 5-4-1 on the season. Enroth stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief of Miller, who had eight saves on 11 shots.
The Flyers have a quick turnaround, as they travel from Buffalo back to Philadelphia and host the Devils tonight at 7:00 p.m.
Scott Hartnell has a five game point streak (five goals and five assists), his longest since October 16 through October 26 last season, when he notched two goals and three assists. Hartnell’s longest point streak was seven games, from January 8 to January 20, 2008, when he racked up 10 goals and four assists in seven games. Hartnell also has two career six-game point scoring streaks.
After each notching an assist tonight, Claude Giroux and Thomas Vanek are tied for second in the NHL with 16 points. Toronto’s Phil Kessel leads the way with 20.
The Flyers are one of three teams to have three players in the top 20 in the league in point scoring. Giroux (tied for second, 16 points), Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr (both tied for 16th, 12 points) are all ranked in the top 20. Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin (14 points), Henrik Sedin (14 points) and Alexander Edler (12 points) are all in the top 20 as well as Ottawa’s Jason Spezza (15 points), Milan Michalek (13 points) and Erik Karlsson (13 points).
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