It was an old-fashioned shootout, not the breakaway challenge that goes by the same name. Pucks were flying over, under and past goaltenders at a rapid pace, five in all during the final 13:33 of play.
It’s the kind of game that’s fun to win, crushing to lose. The Sabres were the ones who felt pistol-whipped when the shooting stopped.
Buffalo’s recent run of winning low-scoring affairs failed to carry over when the red light got cranking Tuesday. Philadelphia struck the fatal blow with just 14.8 seconds left to earn a 4-3 victory, stunning the Sabres in First Niagara Center.
“To let it in with 14 seconds left is a stinger,” Sabres center Tyler Ennis said. “It’s a killer. We talked about it in the room. We can’t let that kill us for the next game.”
The next game is tonight. Buffalo visits the archrival Maple Leafs in Toronto. The Leafs feel good after Tuesday’s 4-3 win in Boston, while the Sabres have a lot of hard feelings to shrug off.
“The way you lose is tough sometimes, but we haven’t got too much time to mope about it,” coach Ted Nolan said.
The Sabres and Flyers split the opening two periods – Buffalo scored the only goal of the first while Philly answered in the second – but all that mattered was the final 13:33.
Matt D’Agostini gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead, diving to knock home Steve Ott’s pass during a rare rush by the home team. It got most of the 18,667 fans out of their seats. The rest, wearing black and orange, responded with roars twice in a row.
Philadelphia’s Brayden Schenn tied the game with 6:32 to play. Scott Hartnell put Philly ahead with 4:07 left, scoring on the power play. It was the second power-play goal against a Buffalo team that was 18 of 19 on the penalty kill in the previous seven games.
Zenon Konopka trudged out of the penalty box after both goals, which likely will him earn a seat in the press box tonight. His second infraction was goaltender interference with 4:54 left.
“You don’t take foolish penalties when the score’s tied, 2-2, and give them the go-ahead goal,” Nolan said.
It wasn’t the winning goal, though, because Ennis struck less than a minute later. He put a one-timer under the pads of goaltender Steve Mason, a goal with 3:13 left that the Sabres hoped would earn them a point for the fourth straight game.
Vincent Lecavalier had other plans. He went top shelf with goalie Jhonas Enroth stuck on the ice after getting tangled with defenseman Mike Weber. Lecavalier’s shot zipped through four Buffalo players on the way to the net.
Enroth stayed down in disbelief as he fell to 1-9-4 this season. He described his frustration level as “10 out of 10.”
So how does a team that had played three straight 2-1 games suddenly get caught in a fire fight?
“Missed assignments, not determined enough to battle for the puck and put yourself in a good position to block shots, spinning and turning off hits, not getting in shooting lanes. All of the above,” Nolan said. “We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do at the end.”
Their start was fine. For just the fifth time in 45 games, Buffalo led after 20 minutes. Cody Hodgson gave them the early 1-0 lead with help from D’Agostini and Ott.
Jakub Voracek scored 1:40 into the middle period, the first goal for a Philly power-play unit that went 2 for 6.
The second goal was a setback, but Lecavalier’s tally was shot to the psyche.
“You want to be on the winning end of that,” Hodgson said. “It’s tough right now to think to about how we lost that one, but we’ve got another game tomorrow. We can’t dwell on it.”