PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds didn't take his first shift Thursday until 3:46 into the game.
Better late than never.
The Philadelphia forward, who was hit in the face by a puck during warm-ups, scored two of the Flyers' four second-period goals, including the game-winner, as Philadelphia routed the visiting Buffalo Sabres 7-2.
It was the second two-goal game of the season for Simmonds, who entered having just one in his first three seasons. He scored twice Feb. 2 against Nashville.
Simmonds played Thursday wearing a full cage to protect his injured face. The Flyers said Simmonds received 25 total stitches in his upper and lower lips, and his mouth was too swollen and sore for him to talk after the game.
However, his teammates were more than happy to speak on his behalf.
"He's a warrior," said goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who returned from a three-game absence due to the flu to stop 27 of 29 shots. "He takes the hits by the puck every day in practice during the power play. He's an amazing kid and an amazing player. He pays the price in front of the net and that's why he was rewarded with the goals."
"Tells you what kind of character he has," added Brayden Schenn. "I sit beside him in the dressing room and he can't even talk. You can't even hear what comes out of his mouth because it's so swelled up (but) he was there for us tonight and he had an outstanding performance."
Simmonds wasn't the only Flyer to have an outstanding night. Claude Giroux set a new career-high with five assists, Scott Hartnell had a goal and three assists, and Maxime Talbot had his second two-goal game of the season as the Flyers rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to win for just the second time in their last seven games.
Giroux is the second player this season to have a five-assist game; Oilers rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had five against the Blackhawks on Nov. 19, 2011. He's the first Flyer to have five assists in a game since Alexandre Picard on Feb. 1, 2007.
"I guess everything that I was chipping was going into the net," said Giroux, who moved within one assist of League-leader Henrik Sedin and within two points of League scoring leader Evgeni Malkin. "All the boys played great. I think we need a full team effort like we had tonight more often."
The win was even more impressive as the Flyers, already missing top forwards Jaromir Jagr due to the flu and James van Riemsdyk with a concussion, played most of the final two periods without two other forwards. Danny Briere left the game after the first period due to an upper-body injury during the first period, while Tom Sestito left the game early in the second with a lower-body injury.
"It's a character win," said Talbot. "It's a win that guys just tried to grind out. They were not all pretty goals, but guys put a lot of traffic in front of the net and guys crashed the net and it was about hard work and resiliency. It's a big win for us."
Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek scored for the Sabres, who lost for the third straight game and saw their three-game road win streak snapped. Goalie Jhonas Enroth, playing for the first time in nearly a month, was pulled in the second after allowing three goals on 18 shots. His replacement, Ryan Miller, fared no better, allowing four goals on 17 shots.
"That's about as bad as you can play defensively," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
The Sabres were strong in the first period, peppering Bryzgalov with 12 shots and taking an early two-goal lead. Pominville opened the scoring, tapping in a cross-crease pass by Tyler Myers for his 22nd of the season at 5:15, extending his goal-scoring streak to three games and his point-scoring streak to six.
Vanek made it 2-0 when his shot from the right circle grazed the stick of Flyers defenseman Matt Carle and got past Bryzgalov.
"In the first I think we had control," said Pominville. "We were doing some good things. We were generating chances. … The momentum just changed sides and they took over from that point on. That's when we have to lock in and be smart and be better and we can't play the way we did."
While the Sabres were happy with how they played in the first 20 minutes, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wasn't shy about letting his team know he didn't like the opening effort.
"It's good that he came in here and let us know," said Schenn. "He wasn't calm, that's for sure. He voiced his opinion on how he thinks not only we were playing that game but as of late. It was good for us."
As was the response, as the Flyers scored the game's next seven goals, starting with Talbot's re-direction of a Braydon Coburn point shot just 54 seconds into the second.
"We weren't happy with the first period and Max's line when out there and had a great shift, got a goal," said Giroux. "Got all the boys going."
Ruff blamed poor execution by his defensemen for the defeat.
"I think you look at the start of the second … you can look at four or five of the goals and it's just our defensive coverage," said Ruff. "The point shot, if Tyler Myers boxes out Talbot there's no goal. The rebound opportunities, and on the power play same thing. We're just a half a second short on them."
Simmonds camped in front of Enroth to score his two goals, both on the power play, just 3:17 apart. Erik Gustafsson capped the four-goal second by snapping a shot over Miller's blocker at 13:48 for his first NHL goal.
Talbot and Jakub Voraceck scored 31 seconds apart early in the third to blow the game open, and Hartnell scored his 27th of the season at 9:25 to close the scoring.
Now 14th in the Eastern Conference and 10 points out of a playoff spot, the Sabres need to re-group for a game Friday at home against Montreal, the team right ahead of them in the standings.
"They sting," Vanek said of the losses. "All three of them hurt, that's for sure. It's not getting any easier from here, but as hard and disappointing as this one is, you just have to think of what you can do better and show up tomorrow to win again."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK