BUFFALO, N.Y. — Shut out for nearly 58 minutes on Friday night, the Flyers got goals from Michael Raffl and Shayne Gostisbehere on the closing shifts but couldn’t finish the comeback job in a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
Buffalo’s Robin Lehner stopped 33 shots and engaged in a goaltending duel with Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott (33 saves) for two scoreless periods before goals from the Sabres' Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane in the third built a 2-0 lead. Jack Eichel added two empty-net goals.
The Flyers entered the night three points out of a playoff spot, having won seven of eight since the 0-5-5 skid that included three shutout losses. The Sabres are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL and have the worst record (9-19-7) in the Eastern Conference.
Raffl scored on a power play after the Flyers pulled Elliott to gain a 6-on-4 advantage with 2:10 remaining. Gostisbehere whistled in a wrist shot from the right circle with 38 seconds remaining, in between Eichel’s goals.
O’Reilly broke a scoreless tie four minutes into the third period when his shot from the behind the red line on the left side of the net burrowed behind the right pad of Elliott and into the net. Kane made it 2-0 with 8:52 left in the game when he deflected a high shot past Elliott.
• Elliott got his 10th straight start in net and played in his 400th NHL game. He entered the game 12-2-1 in his career against the Sabres
Elliott showed little sign of fatigue — or dizziness from standing on his head — while making 16 saves in the first period. He swatted away Kane, Buffalo’s leading scorer, on a penalty shot early in the first and slid across the crease to stuff Sabres star Jack Eichel at the doorstep on a power play later in the period.
With Michal Neuvirth (lower body) not yet cleared to return and rookie Alex Lyon yet to make his NHL debut, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is leaning on Elliott to play every night.
“He’s been real good for us, he’s feeling good, he’s feeling strong and there’s no reason we wouldn’t go back to him,” said Hakstol on Friday, morning while noting he had not yet decided who would start Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back in Columbus.
Hakstol said before the game he had not yet made a decision on who would start Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back in Columbus.
• The Flyers scored on the power play for the seventh time in nine games but struggled to create scoring chances on multiple opportunities with the man-advantage before falling behind 2-0.
Playing 5-on-3 for 40 seconds during the third period, the Flyers did not put a shot on goal. The best chance on what turned out to be a 3:20 power play came when Jake Voracek shot high on a one-timer from the right circle.
The Flyers put four shots on net during two power plays in the second period, but none challenged Lehner. He had to make just one save on the Flyers' second opportunity, while the Sabres cleared the puck three times.
Buffalo has been perfect on the penalty kill over its previous five games.
• Jake Voracek assisted on both goals to bring his NHL-leading tally up to 36. He has a point in five straight. Claude Giroux also had two assists and extended his point streak to four games.
• Voracek shared some of the secret sauce fueling the Flyers’ recent surge following Friday’s morning skate.
“We got drunk,” Voracek told NHL.com reporter Joe Yerdon. “That helped. We sat down together, talked about some stuff we wanted to do better. We had some heart-to-hearts and it worked out so it was good.”
• Coming off a game in which he scored his first NHL goal, defenseman Robert Hagg made a couple rookie mistakes in the first period. Hagg’s giveaway in the neutral zone sent Kane on the breakaway that led to Gostisbehere’s takedown and the ensuing penalty shot. Hagg also took a hooking penalty in the period.
• Jori Lehtera replaced Taylor Leier (upper-body) on the fourth line for the second straight game. Defenseman Mark Alt was a healthy scratch.
• This was the Flyers’ only trip to Buffalo this season. They defeated the Sabres 2-1 at Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 14 and wrap up the season series in Philadelphia on Jan. 7.
• At Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium, where the Sabres played from 1970-96, chairs in the cheap seats were painted orange. On Friday night, the color was smattered around several sections near the ice at KeyBank Center, with Flyers fans surely finding good prices on the secondary market from disgruntled Sabres’ season-ticket holders
• The Flyers play for the seventh time in 12 days Saturday night at Columbus before getting a four-day break. It will be Hakstol’s 200th game behind the bench.