BUFFALO, N.Y. — A power-play surge helped the Flyers turn around their season and get back in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The special team's success didn’t continue into Friday night’s 4-2 loss in Buffalo, as the Flyers couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities until it was too late (see observations).
Michael Raffl managed to score a goal with 15 seconds remaining in the Flyers’ fifth power play of the game but not before the Flyers pulled goaltender Brian Elliott to gain a 6-on-4 advantage — nor before the Sabres had built a two-goal lead.
Philadelphia couldn’t convert with two extra skaters earlier in the third period, failing to put a shot on net during 40 seconds of a 5-on-3 opportunity within a 3:20 power play.
In 9:08 of total time with a man-advantage, the Flyers forced Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner to make just six saves before Raffl ended Lehner’s shutout bid with 2:10 remaining.
“You can narrow it down to power plays, you can narrow it down to a lot of things,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, who scored the Flyers' other goal with 32 seconds left in the game. “But I think our readiness as a team collectively wasn’t there tonight.”
Coach Dave Hakstol agreed that the power play outage was a symptom of a larger problem with the Flyers’ overall effort.
“We weren’t sharp enough, a lot like the rest of our game,” Hakstol said. “We didn’t make enough plays under pressure tonight, whether it was 5-on-5 or on the power play.”
In winning seven of eight heading into Friday night’s game, the Flyers had scored eight goals on 29 power play opportunities (27.5 percent). The string of victories brought the Flyers within three points of the idle New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference Wild Card spot.
After winning five of six on a homestand, the Flyers started a four-game road trip that consists of two back-to-backs with a four-day holiday break in between. They play in Columbus on Saturday night.
“We did some good things at home on the homestand,” Gostisbehere said. “But it’s one thing to win at home. You have to do it on the road too. You’re not going to be a playoff team if you can’t win on the road.”
The Flyers' scoring struggles squandered a solid outing from Elliott, who made 28 of his 33 saves through the first two scoreless periods.
“(Elliott) gave us every chance possible to win that game and just to be in that game was pretty lucky,” Gostisbehere said. “He stood on his head and made some great saves. But I don’t think we are going to win too many games playing like that.”
The Flyers did kill off both of their penalties and have allowed two or fewer power play chances in nine of their last 10 games. They put two shots on goal while playing shorthanded.
Despite being on the power play for an additional five minutes, the Flyers were out-shot 37-35 by the Sabres. Shot attempts were even at 58 each. The Flyers had 14 shots blocked and missed the net on nine shots, including a one-timer from Jake Voracek in the third period that was the Flyers best power play scoring chance. Voracek assisted on both of the Flyers’ late goals to bring his league-leading tally to 36.
“We had a good push there at the end but we have to get that push earlier than we had it,” said Claude Giroux, who also had two assists. “It’s frustrating but at the same time we have to put this behind us and be ready for tomorrow.”