The Buffalo Sabres were a middle of the pack team on the power play in 2011-12, but they looked like an elite bunch with the extra man Sunday.
Thomas Vanek had five points and Tyler Myers scored Buffalo's third power-play goal of the afternoon late in the third period to propel the Sabres past the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at First Niagara Center.
Myers' shot from near the left point ricocheted off Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen and past goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov with 5:03 left in the third period of Buffalo's season-opening contest, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Cody Hodgson, in his first full season with the Sabres and playing between Vanek and Jason Pominville, added an insurance goal just 76 seconds later. With Myers and Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell in the box, Hodgson put the rebound of a Vanek breakaway chance past Bryzgalov. Vanek sealed the victory with an empty-net tally with 47.4 seconds left.
Pominville finished with three assists.
“That line was the difference,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “Van was fabulous, [Hodgson] was terrific and Pommer was right somewhere between those two. We look at those guys as being our top line that can push us to that next level.
It appeared as though Philadelphia might have gotten one back when the scored was still 4-2 with Bryzgalov on the bench for an extra attacker, but play was whistled dead as the puck was squirting past a crowd in the Buffalo crease and into the Sabres' net. Vanek's second goal of the game came seconds later.
“It’s a lot of luck when you get that many points,” Vanek, who had the most points in a game by a Buffalo player in five years, told the Buffalo News. “I was fortunate every pass I made went in, and when I scored, I scored. You won’t have many of those nights. You enjoy it, you like the win and you move on.”
The loss capped a lost weekend for the Flyers, who were beaten 3-1 at home by Pittsburgh on Saturday.
''The bounces aren't going our way right now,'' new captain Claude Giroux said. ''It's not the start that we're looking for, two losses in a row. But we'll just have to fight through it and come back."
One thing the Flyers have to fix is the penalty-killing. After allowing Pittsburgh to score twice in three tries on Saturday, Philadelphia surrendered three power-play goals on six chances to the Sabres.
"The penalty-kill right now, we've got to continue to look at it and work at it," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Every day is a new opportunity. But we've got to get on track here and get a win in the column and get moving in the right direction."
Sabres forward Steve Ott, acquired from Dallas during the summer, needed a little more than 11 minutes to provide an impact for his new club. His one-timer from the slot was the first extra-man tally of the day and gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 11:07 of the opening period.
Philadelphia struck twice early in the second. Second-year center Sean Couturier deflected a Kurtis Foster shot past goalie Ryan Miller at 2:23. Giroux put the Flyers in front at 4:57, but Vanek drew the Sabres level at 15:54 with the team's second power-play goal of the game.
Miller finished with 27 saves.
|PPG - Steve Ott (1) ASST: Jason Pominville (1), Thomas Vanek (1)|
1 - 0 BUF
|Sean Couturier (1) ASST: Kurtis Foster (1), Jakub Voracek (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Claude Giroux (2) ASST: Kimmo Timonen (1), Wayne Simmonds (1)|
2 - 1 PHI
|PPG - Thomas Vanek (1) ASST: Drew Stafford (1), Jason Pominville (2)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Tyler Myers (1) ASST: Tyler Ennis (1), Thomas Vanek (2)|
3 - 2 BUF
|Cody Hodgson (1) ASST: Thomas Vanek (3), Andrej Sekera (1)|
4 - 2 BUF
|EN - Thomas Vanek (2) ASST: Jason Pominville (3)|
5 - 2 BUF
|Power Play %||23.4%||13.4%|
|% on Road||18.6%||12.2%|
|% at Home||28.0%||14.5%|
|Scott Hartnell Roughing against Marcus Foligno|
|Marcus Foligno Roughing against Scott Hartnell|
|Marcus Foligno Roughing against Luke Schenn|
|Luke Schenn Roughing against Marcus Foligno|
|Nicklas Grossmann Tripping against Cody Hodgson|
|Robyn Regehr Tripping against Wayne Simmonds|
|Jordan Leopold Interference against Claude Giroux|
|Robyn Regehr Tripping against Scott Hartnell|
|Patrick Kaleta Roughing against Kimmo Timonen|
|Kimmo Timonen Roughing against Patrick Kaleta|
|Scott Hartnell Boarding against Jason Pominville|
|Scott Laughton Too many men/ice - bench|
|Luke Schenn Hooking against Cody Hodgson|
|Scott Hartnell Fighting (maj) against Drew Stafford|
|Drew Stafford Fighting (maj) against Scott Hartnell|
|Steve Ott Embellishment|
|Ruslan Fedotenko Tripping against Mikhail Grigorenko|
|Luke Schenn Tripping against Marcus Foligno|
|Tyler Myers Interference against Scott Hartnell|
|Scott Hartnell Interference on goalkeeper against Ryan Miller|