The Flyers enter their bye week on a high after defeating the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1, Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center, sweeping back-to-back weekend games on home ice as they also topped St. Louis Saturday.
The Flyers improved their home record to 11-8-4. With the win, the Flyers now have 46 points, tying them with Carolina for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference heading into Sunday evening's action around the league.
Shortly after Ryan O'Reilly opened the scoring early in the second with a power-play rocket, Shayne Gostisbehere's score knotted things with his ninth of the season, as he created the turnover in the neutral zone that led to him finishing the play with the goal.
Sean Couturier stayed scorching hot with two more goals, including the game-winner on a power-play one-timer from the dot midway through the second. He then added an empty-netter to make it 3-1 in the third as the Flyers' top line center continues to lead the team with his 23 goals.
Ivan Provorov also chipped in with an empty net goal for extra insurance.
Michal Neuvirth earned his first win since Nov. 2 as he stopped 30 of 31 shots.
Jakub Voracek added a pair of assists, increasing his NHL-leading amount to 43.
• The second period started out just like the first with more penalties (the Flyers took two very early ones to start the game) as the Flyers committed yet another stick infraction — Andrew MacDonald for hooking — and this time, the Sabres made the Flyers' PK pay. O’Reilly found a soft spot between the four Flyers on the ice, settled in and roofed a one-time shot over Neuvirth’s shoulder for a 1-0 Sabres lead. Ideally, you want this shot blocked or the play better defended. Neuvirth was slow to react, perhaps thinking he had the near post sealed off.
• The Flyers had a quick answer after the Sabres' goal as Gostisbehere stepped up in the neutral zone and broke up Jake McCabe’s pass, which resulted in a Flyers rush. Some very selfless passing as Jori Lehtera hit Scott Laughton, who then fed it back to Ghost, who was the trailer on the play. Gostisbehere made no mistake to tie the game at 1-1. It was very important, and not just on the scoreboard as the Flyers seized the momentum from Buffalo after allowing the first goal.
• I really liked how the Flyers changed up their look on their power-play goal in their third PP opportunity. That goal, courtesy of Couturier, gave them a 2-1 lead. With Claude Giroux moving from his usual spot on the left-side half-wall to the right side, he took a puck from Voracek and skated behind the net with all four Sabres skaters watching him. It allowed Couturier to slide in under the coverage and fire a one-timer in the opposite direction from where Sabres goalie Robin Lehner was moving.
• The Flyers come so close to a two-goal lead later in the second as Voracek came up with a slick power move along the left boards, squeezing through a pair of Sabres players, which led to a 3-on-1. Voracek connected with Wayne Simmonds, but Lehner got just enough of his glove to deny the Flyers a goal. You’d like to see Simmonds bury those types of opportunities as he hasn’t been much of a factor this season at even strength.
• Robert Hagg nearly broke Lehner’s collarbone with a one-time slap shot from about 17 feet away as he caught Lehner in the unprotected area between the mask and his shoulder pads. Once again, it was Giroux’s vision to spot the open seam in the Sabres' defense and create the scoring chance for Hagg.
• The Flyers gave the Sabres a power-play opportunity in the opening minute as Voracek was called for hooking. The Flyers' PK kept Buffalo’s top PP unit around the perimeter, not allowing any looks from the high-danger areas. Less than a minute after the Flyers killed off that penalty, Simmonds was whistled for a similar slashing call that he’s been guilty of several times this season.
• On the Sabres' second power play, Neuvirth robbed Sam Reinhart with the glove. A fantastic save, while at the same time, he was just a little slow reading and reacting to the pass to Reinhart. Neuvirth had to resort to his athleticism over his technique there.
• It took a while for all four lines to get an even-strength shift thanks to penalties, but Nolan Patrick had a nice look to Michael Raffl when they were able to get on the ice. But Patrick’s dish was just a little far from Raffl's outstretched stick. If current Phantom Oskar Lindblom can evolve into a real sniper, potentially paired with Patrick, that duo could be deadly for years to come.
• The Flyers' power play certainly wasn’t short on zone time in the first period, spending 1:30 of their two minutes in the Sabres' end in their one and only attempt. The Flyers were able to work it down low to Simmonds and try to work in a rebound, but they weren’t able to break the Sabres' box and with any cross-ice passing lanes, mostly working it around the outside.
• The Flyers again came out with a sluggish opening period as they were outshot, 12-5, by the Sabres. Clearly, they never gained any momentum after they were forced to kill off that pair early of penalties, and that played a huge role in not being able to sustain consistent offensive pressure at even strength.
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Valterri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Tyrell Goulbourne-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas