Sabres beat Flyers to snap losing streak
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Robin Lehner played well enough to win on Friday night. This time, he finally got some support from his teammates.
Lehner made 33 saves to help lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Evander Kane had a goal and an assist, Jack Eichel had a pair of empty-net goals and Ryan O’Reilly also scored to give Lehner and the Sabres the offensive support that has been lacking for much of this season.
“It was a much more consistent effort,” O’Reilly said. “He’s been our best player, he’s showing up every night giving us a chance to win and we haven’t been scoring enough. There’s not nearly enough goals. We’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the net and give him more support because he’s playing phenomenal.”
Buffalo (9-19-7) snapped a three-game losing streak with the victory.
The game was a goaltending duel until things broke open in the third period. Philadelphia made a late push after falling behind, cutting 2-0 and 3-1 leads to one-goal deficits in the final 2:10 before Eichel’s second empty-net goal iced it.
“We stuck with it,” Lehner said. “We didn’t get rewarded after 40 (minutes), we score two and we get two empty-netters. That’s great.”
One of Lehner’s best stops came on center Nolan Patrick from close range with 3:30 remaining in the second. Afterward, Lehner lunged across the crease to try and stop a quick follow-up that hit the side of the net.
Michael Raffl and Shayne Gostisbehere scored for the Flyers (15-13-7), who lost for only the third time this month (7-3-0). Brian Elliott made 33 saves.
“We weren’t sharp enough,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We didn’t make enough plays under pressure tonight, whether that was 5-on-5 or on the power play.”
Aside from Buffalo’s opening goal, Elliott was sensational. With eight minutes left in the first period, he stopped Eichel with a stick save from close range. Seven minutes into the second period, he had back-to-back standout saves on Kane and O’Reilly.
“(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.”
O’Reilly opened the scoring 3:59 into the third period when he flipped a seemingly harmless shot at the net from behind the end line to Elliott’s right, and the puck banked into the net off Elliott’s pad. It was O’Reilly’s ninth goal.
“It was kind of frustrating how many grade-A chances we had, and myself I wasn’t shooting very well,” O’Reilly said. “I get a chance like that, just try to put it in that upper area and get a good bounce and it was nice, it kind of gave us a little spark and a little confidence. It was something that we needed.”
Kane made it 2-0 on a deflection from in front of the net with 8:52 remaining. The power forward tipped Josh Gorges’ one-timer from the point for his team-best 15th goal.
Philadelphia got one back late on the power play to get back in it. Raffl deflected Claude Giroux’s shot from the point with 2:10 remaining.
Eichel added his first empty-net goal with 1:07 remaining.
Gostisbehere made it 3-2 with 31.9 seconds left on a one-timer from the right circle before Eichel added a second empty-net goal with .6 seconds remaining.
The lone highlight from the first period was a penalty shot for Kane after he was taken down on a breakaway. Kane’s shot was stopped by Elliot’s glove save.
Both teams have a quick turnaround on Saturday. Buffalo is on the road at Carolina and Philadelphia has a road game against Columbus.
NOTES: D Victor Antipin, D Justin Falk and C Evan Rodrigues were scratched for the Sabres. ... LW Taylor Leier and D Mark Alt were scratched for the Flyers. ... This was the second of three meetings between the two teams this season. Philadelphia won the first meeting 2-1 on Dec. 14. ... The third and final meeting takes place on Jan. 7 in Philadelphia. ... Flyers G Michal Neuvirth played in 29 games for the Sabres from 2013-15. He was traded to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline that year before signing with Philadelphia in free agency.