PHILADELPHIA — Jake Voracek, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux each scored to keep the Philadelphia Flyers’ tenuous playoff prospects alive in a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
Philadelphia’s win capped an emotional 72 hours for the franchise — from the high of scoring three straight goals to beat Pittsburgh in overtime in the outdoor Stadium Series game on Saturday to the downer of trading former All-Star forward Wayne Simmonds at Monday’s deadline.
The white towels Flyers fans wildly waved were seen more as a source of inspiration for a team that is 14-3-1 over the past 18 games more than a symbol of surrender for one that entered seven points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. There are 19 games left and the Flyers can’t afford many losses — and need teams ahead of them such as the Penguins, Carolina and Montreal to struggle down the stretch.
The new guy seems poised to help with the playoff push.
Ryan Hartman, a 6-foot forward, was acquired from Nashville in the Simmonds deal and quickly endeared himself to his new city. Oskar Lindblom scored just 2:48 into the game to get the Flyers rolling. Hartman then levelled Rasmus Dahlin, the No. 1 draft pick, with a clean hit on the open ice and was quickly jumped by Sabres defenceman Zach Bogosian. The scrap was broken up as the crowd roared for the newest fighting Flyer.
Voracek knocked in his 17th goal of the season on his second whack at a rebound to beat Carter Hutton for a 2-0 lead. The Flyers never trailed thanks to van Riemsdyk’s 17th goal in the second and Travis Sanheim’s sixth goal of the season just 46 seconds into the third.
Giroux, who scored the OT winner against the Penguins, had an easier time getting his 19th goal, scoring an empty-netter late in the third.
Jack Eichel scored his 22nd goal and Casey Mittelstadt had his ninth of the season for the Sabres, who were coming off a 5-3 loss Monday to Toronto.
Sabres defenceman Brandon Montour made his team debut after he was acquired in a trade with Anaheim. Buffalo remains in the playoff picture despite going 12-19-6 since a 10-game winning streak in November. The Sabres began the day in 10th place (66 points), but were passed by the Flyers (67 points) in the chase for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Brian Elliott was solid in net, stopping 34 shots to keep the Flyers afloat as they await the return of injured rookie goalie Carter Hart in another week.
NOTES: Buffalo recalled F Danny O’Regan from the Rochester Americans (AHL). … The parent company that owns the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and NHL’s Sabres announced the departures of Chief Operating Officer Bruce Popko, Chief Administrative Officer Brent Rossi and Executive Vice-President Erica Muhleman. … Buffalo completed the 12th of its 16th set of back-to-backs this season and fell to 5-5-2 in the second game.
Sabres host the Penguins on Friday.
Flyers play Thursday at Columbus.
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press