Sunday, April 06, 2014

Flyers do enough to take out Sabres

Philadelphia, PA --  Brayden Schenn picked up a pair of goals, including a highlight-reel score late in the contest, while Matt Read and Vinny Lecavalier added a score and helper each, as the Philadelphia Flyers got back on track against the softie Buffalo Sabres, 5-2, on Sunday evening.

Zac Rinaldo added his first goal in 22 games before being kicked out in the third period, and Mark Streit earned a season-best three assists for the Orange and Black, who kicked away the memory of a 5-2 loss in Boston and won for the first time in five games.

The hosts pulled within four points of the idle Rangers in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They have one precious game in hand and four remaining in the regular season.

"Every game's important. It doesn't matter who you're playing. This one could have slipped away from us and you have to take every opponent seriously, go out and play your game," Read said. "We played the first two periods really well, we played great defense and that led to a lot of offense for us. It's good to get our confidence up a little bit, but we have a couple more games to go to find our full potential.

The next one is at Florida on Tuesday, in a season-commencing string of matchups against teams who love nothing more than to play spoiler. 

Steve Mason had it relatively easy, coming up with the victory after 17 saves, though twice he was fooled on dump-ins that skittered dangerously across his crease and near the goal line. He could have become the first goaltender to blank Buffalo here since Jeff Hackett in the 2003-04 season opener, but let a Cody Hodgson deflection elude him on Rinaldo's major penalty.

Mike Weber added a late tally, and Nathan Lieuwen acquitted himself well in his first-ever appearance against the Flyers, surrendering all five goals on 37 shots. Buffalo, which went 0-3 on its final road trip of the year, is four games from completing its worst season in decades, after using a record 44 players.

"We have some kids in a position that there's no big brother for them right now," Sabres head coach Ted Nolan said. "They have to sink or swim. And certain games like this are going to catch up to us."

The Flyers largely played like the skating dead for the first half of the opening period, and put on a less than promising display during each of their two power-play attempts.

Still, they emerged with a 1-0 lead thanks to a lucky bounce. Streit cranked a shot past Lieuwen and off the near post from the right point, but the puck caromed across to the other side where a trailing Read hit the open net with 6 1/2 minutes remaining.

Rinaldo roused the crowd from its slumber with 7:40 gone in the second period, when he slipped through a seam up the middle, took a Read dish and ripped a one-timer home from between the circles.

It was 3-0 for the hosts at 14:20, when Schenn got up close and personal with Weber and managed to deflect a Streit rocket atop the crease, and Philly opened up a four-goal edge at 17:58 when Lecavalier's laser into the upper-left corner from the right circle zipped by Lieuwen.

"Earlier in the year we talked about it, wanting the defenseman to come up more on the rush. He's done it for a long time with the Islanders. And once he started doing it, the other D follow," said Flyers head coach Craig Berube of Streit's growth. "It's really important on breakouts, you need your defensemen involved to create offense. That's one of the biggest areas of our game that's improved."

Buffalo's first strike of the evening came late in a major power play. Zac Rinaldo was given a match penalty for an elbow to the head of Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel with 4 1/2 minutes gone in the third. Ruhwedel immediately left the game and was later diagnosed with a concussion.

"I had a lot of speed going at him with my shoulder down. As I hit him, he shot the puck and my shoulder hit his head clearly," offered Rinaldo, who will certainly have supplemental discipline coming his way this week. "The proof's in the pudding there. I shouldn't have done it, there's no need for it, but it is what it is, part of the game."

Christian Ehrhoff wound up from the point and let a low, hard shot go that Hodgson redirected past Mason at the right post.

Schenn responded with his prettiest goal of the season and perhaps his career. Wayne Simmonds chipped the puck through a Sabres checker inside his defensive zone and off the right-wing boards. Schenn followed up in stride, then beat Lieuwen with a shot over his left shoulder to make it 5-1. 

Weber converted a Hodgson dish with 2:12 remaining, but by then, there was no threat of an imminent comeback, just the smattering of boos from the fans who decided to stick around for the finish.

"We just got out-battled, out-competed," Hodgson said. "I think when you watch the game you can see that. As a team and individuals, we can all improve."

Notes: Schenn's pair of goals pushed him into the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career and gave the Flyers five players to score at least 20 this season ... Schenn's only other two-goal performance this season prior to Sunday was on November 13 at Pittsburgh when he scored both in a 2-1 victory ... Read finished the season leading the club in scoring against the Sabres, with five points (3G, 2A) in three outings ... Philadelphia has won five in a row at home in the regular season against Buffalo ... The Flyers swept the season series from the Sabres (3-0-0) for the second time in three seasons, after going 4-for-4 in 2011-12 ... Weber's tally was his first since Mar. 16, 2013 vs. Ottawa ... Streit last collected three assists in one game with the Islanders against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 10, 2012 ... Hal Gill, chosen as the club's Masterton Trophy nominee earlier in the week, celebrated his 39th birthday by sitting out for the 74th time in 78 games this season.
Post a Comment