The Sabres hosted the Flyers at the First Niagara Center on Friday night, meeting for the second time in just four days. While the first game needed overtime before determining a winner, this one clearly did not. Buffalo dominated the game in all facets, skating away with a 3-1 victory.
Linus Ullmark made his second career start for the Sabres, notching his first NHL win. Michal Neuvirth, who appeared in 27 games with the Sabres last season, recorded the loss for Philadelphia.
While Buffalo didn’t score on the only power play of the first period, they had good puck possession and zone time.
With 2:48 to go in the period, Ryan O’Reilly and Claude Giroux both went to the sin bin. Buffalo dominated the 4-on-4 action, giving them some momentum.
With less than a minute to go in the period, Jack Eichel put the Sabres up 1-0, notching his fourth goal of the year. He skated down the left side with speed, then cut to his right, across to the slot, leaving Evgeny Medvedev flailing before ripping a shot to beat Neuvirth far side. If there’s such a thing as a classic Eichel goal this early in his NHL career, this was it. Puck control, patience and skill.
After killing off an early penalty to start the second period, Buffalo got their turn with the man advantage. It took just eight seconds for them to cash in as O’Reilly launched a rocket from the left circle, using Zemgus Girgensons as his screen. It was his fourth of the season and it put the Sabres up, 2-0.
The Sabres continued to school the Flyers, generating chances for long stretches of play. They cycled the puck well, peppering Neuvirth with shots. Legwand had a few good opportunities, including a breakaway.
Clearly frustrated, Philadelphia lost their discipline several times. Unfortunately, Buffalo failed to capitalize on several man advantages, including a 5-on-3.
Ullmark made a nice save late in the frame on Wayne Simmonds as Rasmus Ristolainen coughed up the puck in his own zone. It sent the teams into the locker room, with Buffalo up, 2-0.
Early in the third period, the Flyers got a man advantage due to a questionable charging call on Nicolas Deslauriers. The Flyers failed to seize the opportunity.
As the penalty expired, Marcus Foligno’s stretch pass out of the zone to O’Reilly quickly set up a 2-on-1 for him and Deslauriers, who was exiting the penalty box. Deslauriers took a gorgeous backhand pass and chipped it over Neuvirth’s shoulder for a commanding 3-0 lead.
With a little over three minutes left in regulation, Mark Streit broke Ullmark’s shutout bid, netting his third goal of the year. Jake McCabe got beat wide by R.J. Umberger, who fed Streit a nifty pass from behind the net. It was too little, too late as the horn blared and the game ended 3-1, Buffalo.
With a goal and two assists, O’Reilly extended his point streak to five games. He has ten points (three goals, seven assists) during the stretch.
This was the first of a five-game, nine-day road trip for the Flyers. The Sabres head to New York to meet the Islanders at Barclays Center on Sunday. That game is scheduled for a 7:35 p.m. puck drop.