A highlight-reel save by goaltender Jhonas Enroth sparked his Buffalo Sabres team to produce some much-needed offense, but a wild finish with five goals over the final 13:33 resulted in a 4-3 victory for the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Vincent Lecavalier scored the game winner for Philadelphia with 14.8 seconds remaining.
Enroth made 29 saves on the night, but got caught out of position and could not recover in time to stop Lecavalier’s one-time shot that somehow made its way through a maze of Sabres.
“I never saw it, it was a little bit of a scramble there,” Enroth said. “I think there was a tip right in front of me that I saved, and then it kicked out to [Lecavalier]. So it was a scramble that, unfortunately, they scored there.”
The line of Steve Ott, Cody Hodgson and Matt D’Agostini carried the Sabres, with each player scoring two points and providing energy throughout the game. Tyler Ennis scored the other goal for Buffalo.
Hodgson said that the team’s effort was where it needed to be to pick up a win on most nights, but at the end of the game they came up short.
“Obviously it’s tough, especially how well we played in the first, and then the second was tough. The third I thought we played well as a team, and had some good penalty kills. It’s a game we could have won, it just slipped away.”
Hodgson opened the scoring for Buffalo just under seven minutes into the game. Ott and D’Agostini worked the puck out from behind the net to a wide-open Hodgson in front of the net. The goal was Hodgson’s first since November 24, snapping a nine-game scoring drought. With the assist, D’Agostini hit a career milestone with 100 career NHL points.
While Ryan Miller made the highlights everywhere with his save on Mikhail Grabovski in Washington on Sunday, Enroth was also up to the task on Tuesday. With about eight minutes left in the first period, Enroth became tangled up with Brian Flynn and Michael Raffl in the crease area as Claude Giroux broke free with the puck. After losing his stick, Enroth was able to dive back across to the right side of the net and use his outstretched blocker to stop a shot from Giroux that did not get any elevation.
“Obviously I thought I was going to make it, I just never gave up on the play,” Enroth said. “I was a bit lucky there, actually. [Giroux] kept it right on the ice and didn’t go upstairs. But like I said, I never gave up, and it paid off.”
Also of note was Buffalo’s penalty kill, which has been a strong suit lately. Over their last 10 games, the Sabres had killed off 29 of 32 penalties. On this night they only managed to kill off four of six Flyers’ man advantage situations. Two penalties from center Zenon Konopka turned into a pair of Philadelphia power-play goals.
Jakub Voracek provided an early equalizer for Philadelphia at the 1:40 mark of the second period. With Konopka in the box following a holding penalty, Voracek received a cross-ice pass from Wayne Simmonds and snapped a shot past Enroth’s glove.
Konopka’s second penalty came with 4:54 left in the third for goaltender interference. On the ensuing power play, Scott Hartnell picked up his third point of the game, snapping home a wrist shot over the glove of Enroth.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said the fourth line needs to be counted on to play some quality minutes and not take game-changing penalties.
“The so-called fourth line is supposed to be reliable and get you some quality minutes, and wear their opposition down. You don’t take selfish penalties when the score is tight and give them the go-ahead goal.”
On the other side of special teams, Buffalo’s power play was unable to come up with a goal on their four attempts. D’Agostini reflected on the unit’s struggles, saying that the plays just didn’t come together properly against the Flyers.
“We had a tough time getting into the zone. We got our opportunities when we did get into the zone, but we just need to execute. We got our breakouts and the plays we needed to do. We just didn’t have the right timing, we weren’t in sync tonight.”
Buffalo broke the 1-1 tie early in the third period. Hodgson was denied by the crossbar on a backhand shot, but the line connected on their next rush to reclaim the lead. Ott placed a perfect pass to D’Agostini who was streaking up the left wing, and his deflection eluded Steve Mason on the blocker side.
However, Philadelphia would not be denied, as Brayden Schenn found the back of the net to tie the game at two. The puck took a bounce off the boards and sneaked behind Enroth, who nearly sprawled out to make another amazing save.
After Hartnell’s power-play tally, the Sabres remained resilient, and Tyler Ennis tied the game at three with 3:13 remaining in regulation. But in the end, Lecavalier’s last-minute marker was the final dagger as Sabres came up just short. Again.
“The way you lose is tough sometimes, but we don’t have too much time to mope about it,” said Nolan. “We’re going to hop on the bus here and get ready for the next one.”
Buffalo heads to Toronto to face off against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday in a 7:30 p.m. faceoff at the Air Canada Centre.