PHILADELPHIA – The Buffalo Sabres fought through penalty trouble against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and came out on the losing end of a 4-1 tilt at Wells Fargo Center.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan indicated after the game that more players will be watching the game from the press box if their play and effort isn’t up to his standard.
“We have to play a certain way in order to give us a chance to compete and a chance to win. By doing stupid things like we have been, it’s not going to work,” he said. “It’s going to be ugly games like this all night so the gloves are officially off. Now we gotta do certain things in order to play. If you don’t, you’re not.”
Buffalo committed eight penalties in the game. The Sabres were able to kill off two 5-on-3s, one for 41 seconds in the first period and another for 1:22 in the second. Their penalty kill finished the night 6-for-7.
“It’s all urgency, desperation. All the ingredients that you need to win a hockey game and you have to bring that on the 5-on-5 too,” Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said. “Sometimes, I don’t know if we were fatigued or whatever, but it wasn’t looking good there in the second period.”
“The penalties are going to stop by the people who are doing them, they’re not going to be in the lineup. It’s as plain and simple as that,” Nolan said. “…We’ve seen enough. It’s been 25 games. I’ve seen enough in four games only. We have to change some things and the players either do it or it’s going to be a very, very long year and they might not be here.”
Matt Read scored twice for Philadelphia in a span of 1:40 in the second period. Read's first goal, which came wih 5:51 remaining in the second, was the first goal for the Flyers in their last 133:52 against the Sabres and their first in 191:46 at even strength. Vincent Lecavalier scored as well and Scott Hartnell added an empty netter in the third.
Tyler Myers opened the scoring, marking the second straight game that Buffalo has scored the first goal of the game. The Sabres took the lead with 1:32 remaining in the first period with only one second remaining on a power play. Tyler Ennis threw the puck on net from the right faceoff circle and it hit the far post and ricocheted back across the goal line. Ville Leino took a poke at it and Myers finished the job.
Buffalo skated into the locker room with the lead after one period for the first time this season. However, that lead would not last as Philadelphia scored four unanswered goals from there.
Tallinder said he liked his team’s first period for the most part, but that was about the only bright spot.
“We played pretty good. I thought we could’ve played better, but then the second came and it was even worse,” he said. “I think there are no excuses in this league. You have to play consistent and if you don’t, it’s going to cost you.”
Ryan Miller stopped 42 shots. From his perspective, constantly being on the penalty kill interrupted any flow to Buffalo’s game and sent them down a bad path.
“We got through some penalty kills and then we just got into more trouble. Too many penalties, too much time in our zone,” he said. “It gets guys spending too much time doing things we don’t need to be doing. So it started to kind of get away from us.”
Miller said that taking some of those penalties has to do with puck possession. Philadelphia controlled play for much of that second period and that led to power-play chances.
When you don’t have the puck, you’re going to get called. That’s usually how it works,” Miller said. “Very rarely are you going to get offensive penalties in this league. You’re more worried about controlling the puck and scoring goals but if you don’t have it, you’re chasing and you’re trying to be hard on their guys and you get some of the calls like we got tonight.”
In addition to having the puck more, Nolan said that the team’s style of play needs to adapt to what they’re capable of doing. He said playing a smarter game will also lead to the team taking fewer penalties.
“It’s prone to that, but when you constantly do the same thing over and over and over again and you lose for the same reasons, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out,” he said. “We have to do simple things. We have to play a grind-out type of game. We can’t have turnovers. We can’t take foolish penalties. We can’t get bounced off the puck and get out-muscled in the corners. We have to play a smarter game and play within what our strengths are.”
On Wednesday, the Sabres recalled left wing Luke Adam and defenseman Brayden McNabb from the Rochester Americans. They’ve each spent the last few seasons in the AHL and have each played well down there this year. Tuesday morning, Buffalo sent rookies Johan Larsson and Rasmus Ristolainen to Rochester and returned 18-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Nolan liked what he saw from McNabb and Adam.
“They’re not the problem. Everybody’s telling me the young guys are the problem. The young guys ain’t here anymore so we don’t have that excuse anymore,” Nolan said. “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and bring what each and every body has on this team to bring.”
The Sabres next host the Detroit Red Wings for a 5 p.m. faceoff at First Niagara Center on Sunday.