It’s always fun to see the Flyers score goals. On Saturday night against the Sabres, that’s exactly what they did. Broad Street’s team snapped a scoreless streak that reached eight periods with four goals in a 4-3 triumph over Buffalo. The Eastern Conference’s worst team gave the Flyers a scare, but the orange and black were able to hang on to hand the Sabres their 10th straight loss, grabbing point number 43 in the process.
After spending the previous seven periods of action without a goal, the Flyers met their goalless anecdote on Saturday in Buffalo. The Sabres entered the tilt on a nine-game losing streak, while owning the league’s worst scoring differential of minus-75.
Philly was able to overcome a one-goal deficit, which extended their scoring hiatus to eight periods, with goals from R.J. Umberger, Mark Streit, Chris VandeVelde, and Michael Raffl. And despite the slim margin of victory, the Flyers used the lowly Sabres to make several tune ups, while outshooting Buffalo, 32-27.
Had the Flyers been shut out by Buffalo, this would have been the first time in club history they had been blanked three in a row. Also, they would have surpassed the longest scoring drought in club history, 199 minutes, 43 seconds in January 2003. — Randy Miller, NJ.com
Sabres extend their franchise-record losing streak to 10 straight in regulation with 4-3 loss to Flyers.
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) January 18, 2015
While Craig Berube’s team avoided an unfavorable place in the history books, the Flyers victory pitted Buffalo in an exclusive group of their own. The Sabres are now the first team to drop 10 straight in regulation since the Pittsburgh Penguins rode the negative domino effect in 2006.
Hey, better them than the Flyers. Am I right?
Mr. All-Star Plays the Part
Zemgus Girgensons entered Saturday’s game as not only the All-Star Game’s leading vote getter, but as Buffalo’s lone double digit goal scorer. The 21-year-old Latvian added his 12th of the season on a first period deflection, giving the Sabres only their 16th first period tally of the campaign.
Zemgus Girgensons is the only Sabre who has double digit goals. Just saying.
— Tim Riday (@TimRiday) January 18, 2015
Girgensons’ opener would stand as the game’s only mark after one, despite only eight first period shots for Buffalo. The top line center would find the back of the net once more in the third period, scoring on a 6-on-4 power play.
Sandwiched in between, teammate Tyler Ennis joined the second year center as the only Sabre with 10 or more goals, scoring in the second period.
In ‘Read’ of a Slump Buster
After revealing that he had been playing through a high-ankle sprain since Nov. 1, Matt Read apparently battled through the flu on Saturday, adding his fourth point in his last six games. Read’s second period blast from just outside the left faceoff circle set up R.J. Umberger’s deflection on Philly’s first power play.
“I’m just finally getting through it,” said Read on Thursday. “The last couple games, I’ve been feeling a lot better, a lot faster, a lot sturdier on my skates. I feel like I’m in better position out there because of that, skating a ton better.”
Umberger deflects puck past Neuvirth for PPG http://t.co/d4mAYCAcJL
— Christine Thompson (@Christi16863498) January 18, 2015
The 5-10, 185-pounder has now racked up eight of his 15 assists on the season in his last 18 games, which also happens to represent his current goalless streak. After notching 22 goals last season, the 28-year-old forward hasn’t lit the lamp since Dec. 11 – his third goal of the campaign.
Special Teams Delight
The normally inept penalty kill for Philly used the league’s worst power play to crush two 5-on-4 penalties, killing off Buffalo’s first two power plays. The Flyers’ PK actually rattled off more shots on net than the Sabres’ first crack at the man advantage, which makes sense since Buffalo entered the contest with a puny 8.8 percent power play percentage.
The penalty kill wouldn’t escape the night unblemished, however. But Buffalo’s third period power play goal is easier to swallow since it was scored with an extra attacker, giving the Sabres a two-man advantage.
The Flyers’ 30th-ranked penalty kill unit was successful in two early opportunities before allowing a late goal on a 6-on-4 power play. After Michael Raffl’s first period interference penalty, the Flyers held the Sabres without a shot during the ensuing power play. — Jonah Bronstein, CSN Philly
It could’ve been one of those “weird” nights, though. After all, Patrick Kaleta drew two of Buffalo’s three penalties – with the second sending Zac Rinaldo to the penalty box.
What happens when Zac Rinaldo and Patrick Kaleta collide? (Other than a Flyers penalty because duh)
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 18, 2015
While the penalty kill handled business (for the most part), Philly’s power play was back in business as well. After going 0-for-7 in their last two shut out losses, the Flyers batted 1.000 on their first two chances, with goals from Umberger and Mark Streit.
Philly’s man advantage wouldn’t stay perfect on the night, though. After Philip Varone committed Buffalo’s third penalty of the second period, the Sabres nearly scored a pair of shorthanded goals.
Mark Streit’s turnover to Girgensons at the Flyers’ blue line led to a shorthanded breakaway that goalie Rob Zepp denied with a stretched out pad save. But more on Zepp later.
Fourth Line Jolt
That fourth line was at it again on Saturday. The clique that’s led to increased ice time for Zac Rinaldo broke a 2-2 tie in the third period thanks to Chris VandeVelde’s fourth goal of the marathon. VandeVelde’s breakaway tally was not only his third in nine games, it stood as Philly’s first 5-on-5 goal scored in nine and a half periods.
“It was just a good play by Vinny (Lecavalier),” said VandeVelde. “He managed to knock it out of the air. I don’t even know how the goal went in to be honest, but it went in and that’s all that matters.”
Lecavalier’s helper on the goal snapped a six-game scoreless streak for the the veteran forward. The 34-year-old recorded three shots for the first time since last scoring on Jan. 3.
4th line magic again #Flyers
— Justin Nolan (@chi2phi) January 18, 2015
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo chalked up his third assist of the season on the same play. In just his third game back since a near two-month seat in the press box, the left handed defender was credited for his first point since Nov. 15.
The savior to the backup goalie role added another brick to his growing legacy on Saturday night. In his fourth NHL start, Rob Zepp stopped 24 of Buffalo’s 27 shots, upping the international sensation’s record to 3-1-0.
The 33-year-old rookie didn’t save the day for the Flyers, but he did make several critical saves, including one on Girgensons’ shorthanded breakaway. Call it retribution for Girgensons’ first period tally, which by his own admission, was one that he had to stop.
“It surprised me. I’ll take credit for that,” Zepp said. “I’ve got to fight through traffic. It came through traffic, but I’ve got to do a better job finding it. He ended up one-timing it off the post. [It was a] nice play, but I want to fight through traffic a little better there.”
While Zepp’s .889 save percentage on the night looks repugnant on the surface, it was anything but for the simple fact that it falls next to a “W.” Furthermore, Zepp was completely hung out to dry on Tyler Ennis’ second period mark. After sprawling out to make an initial save, the Flyers defense failed to clear the puck, leaving it on the doorstep for Ennis to lift it top shelf on an already out-of-position Zepp.
Unless the NHL is adding points to the standings for style marks, who cares? The Flyers have a hot hand in the former Carolina Hurricanes draft pick. And after making his fourth straight appearance since being called up from Lehigh Valley for the second time this season, it appears they’re going to ride it until Steve Mason returns – as they should.
Saturday’s game featured four multi-point scorers, with Michael Del Zotto serving as the Flyers’ lone representative. Del Zotto’s pair of assists marked the second multi-point game for the 24-year-old blue liner. The former Ranger and Predator now has three points in his last four games, giving weight to the opinion that the former first-round pick is more effective in an expanded role.
It was a good game for Del Zotto, who had a pair of assists for his second two-point night all season, and a good final period for the Flyers… — Dave Isaac, Courier-Post
Good thing from this game: MDZ was — by far — the team's leader in ice time. 23:31, next was partner (LSchenn) at 20:34. No one else > 20.
— Kurt (@Kurt_BSH) January 18, 2015
Despite dropping their 10th consecutive game, the Sabres touted three different multi-point scorers against Philadelphia. Both Matt Moulson and Chris Stewart contributed two assists, linking them to Girgensons and his two goals.
For nearly six minutes of game time in the second period, viewers watching the game on Comcast Sportsnet experienced a different way to follow the game. With technical difficulties cutting off the action, viewers got to listen to a radio version of play-by-play with a still Flyers logo on the screen.
Luckily for those fortunate enough to follow The Orange and Black Pack on Twitter, they were on fire with this.
Jake Voracek Watch
After a two-game vacation from the scoresheet, Jake Voracek returned to keep his NHL lead in points to three. The Flyers’ scoring magician recorded his league-leading 36th assist of the season on Mark Streit’s second period power play goal.
Crosby now has 50 points, two behind Voracek's league-leading total of 52. Malkin also has 50. Pens have 2 games in hand on Flyers.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) January 17, 2015
The field that chases the fourth-year Flyer is growing, though. With 12 points in his last six games, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby has now tied teammate Evgeni Malkin, and Dallas’ Tyler Seguin for second place with 50 points. And despite Claude Giroux’s assist against Buffalo, Crosby’s back-to-back three-point outings place him one point ahead of the Flyers captain.
A Refill on the Long Island
With the taste of victory back on their palettes, it’s back to Long Island for a second date with the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders. With 61 points in 45 games, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion that the Isles are having an alright year.
The Flyers, of course, have a bone to pick with Jack Capuano’s squad. In their first tilt back in November, Steve Mason watched his offense fail to light a single lamp, which includes the shootout stanza as well.
Next game Monday vs. the Islanders, 1pm. pic.twitter.com/CDkarzzR1r
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) January 18, 2015
But despite a two-game losing streak against the Isles, the Flyers have earned points in six straight games against the divisional foe on the Island. I’ll raise a “Long Island” to that. What say you?
Andy is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Walsh University. He enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, and reading. He is married with a daughter. You can follow Andy on Twitter @ADudones.