In the final meeting of their 2020-21 season series, the Philadelphia Flyers were defeated by the Buffalo Sabres, 5-3, at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon. The Flyers finished the season series with a 5-3-0 record against Buffalo. The Flyers held a 3-2 lead with time ticking now near the final three minutes but then the Sabres scored two quick goals and an empty-netter to seal the outcome.
Oskar Lindblom (6th goal of the season) and Farabee (PP, 15th) opened a 2-0 lead for the Flyers in the first period. A slow start to the second period by the Flyers proved costly as early goals spaced just 46 seconds apart by Sam Reinhart (14th) and Arttu Routsalainen (1st NHL goal) undid the Flyers' lead and tied the game at 2-2. In the third period, Gostisbehere (8th) restored the lead for the Flyers before rebound goals 25 seconds apart by Jeff Skinner (5th) and Rasmus Asplund (5th) put Buffalo ahead. Casey Mittelstadt (6th) added an empty netter with 24 ticks left.
Carter Hart took the loss, stopping 25 of 30 shots. Linus Ullmark denied 40 of 43 Flyers' shots including 15 of 16 in the third period.
The Flyers lineup featured some different combinations, and two changes in personnel. Rookie Tanner Laczysnki replaced Michael Raffl in the starting forward group, while Samuel Morin exited the lineup in favor of Philippe Myers.
Giving up a goal with a shift or two of yielding an initial one has been a major problem for the Flyers all season, and it happened two more times in this game.
1) The Flyers went right at the Sabres early, generating six of the first eight shots of the game through the opening 7:38 of the first period. Philly also killed off the game's first penalty (a tripping minor on Claude Giroux behind the Buffalo net on Rasmus Ristolainen) with some authority. Hart was not tested much in the first period but looked sharp and on top of his angles. The Flyers kept their feet moving and established steady forechecking pressure in the Buffalo zone and crisp breakouts from their own. In the latter portion of the period Myers took an avoidable holding penalty on a poorly defended rush, but Philly staged a second solid kill. All around, the first period was a very good one for the Flyers: a 15-8 shot advantage, good puck movement, traffic at the net, no one taking shortcuts. The end result was a 2-0 lead in the cash register.
2) A crisp pass from Tanner Laczynski to Nicolas-Aube Kubel gained the Flyers an entry in the Buffalo zone. Receiving a pass from Aube-Kubel, Gostisbehere pinched down on the left side and his shot through a Laczynski screen pinballed into the net, apparently off Lindblom, who got credited with the goal at 11:36.
Buffalo entered the game 16-for-17 on the penalty kill against the Flyers but Philly cashed in on their first opportunity of the afternoon by getting the puck at the net and traffic around it. On one wave of pressure, Travis Konecny wasn't able to force a rebound over the goal line. However, on a similar sequence shortly thereafter, Couturier put the puck to the net and Farabee stashed it home from the blue paint for a 2-0 lead at 14:14. The other assist credited to Kevin Hayes but was changed to Nolan Patrick after replays showed that Patrick got a piece of the puck near the left post and got it to Farabee.
3) A sleepy start to the second period by the Flyers -- even before Buffalo got on the board -- soon proved costly as the Sabres went from down 2-0 to tied 2-2 with a span of 46 seconds. At 3:56, Reinhart scored directly off a set play as Jeff Skinner sent the puck toward him off a left circle faceoff win against Couturier. At 4:42, Ruotsalainen one-timed and roofed a Cozens pass over Hart's glove to the short side. On the next shift, Nicolas Aube-Kubel had a wide open net staring at him but couldn't score. An ill-advised play at the offensive blueline by Kevin Hayes forced Hart to erase an odd-man counterattack the other way. With around nine minutes left in the period, the Flyers once again couldn't pot a goal with an empty-net in front of them; this time on the bouncing rebound of a Scott Laughton shot from in front. A few shifts later, Ullmark denied Travis Konecny from the right side after Voracek caught him in stride with a pass. In the final 4 minutes, Couturier couldn't quite stuff the puck inside the open left post.
4) The line of Lindblom. Laczynski and Aube-Kubel created another pair of scoring chances as play ticked down near the final minute of the second period. But the second period ended with the game tied at 2-2. Second period shots were 12-12. It put the Flyers, in the final game of a 5-in-7 gauntlet, in the position of having to win the game in the third period.
5) The Flyers had some nervous moments in the defensive zone -- chasing or puck watching -- but got through them. At 3:47, the Flyers retook the lead on a gorgeously executed play: Farabee, on the right wall, won the puck, made a perfect cross-ice pass to Gostisbehere, who buried a tracer between the pads from the left hash marks to make it 3-2 Flyers at 3:47. Myers got the secondary assist. At 5:08, Aube-Kubel was called for a neutral zone hooking penalty on Dahlin. The Flyers' PK stepped up for the third time in the game. With about 12 minutes left on the clock, Farabee was denied by Ullmark on a breakaway backhander.
The two teams exchanged after-the-whistle "pleasantries" after a good save by Hart with 8:20 left on the clock, resulting in a 4-on-4. Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov attacked aggressively after a clean entry but Provorov couldn't beat Ullmark. Then Voracek had a middle slot look on the next shot. With 3:03 left in regulation, after Giroux took an icing, Skinner crashed the net for a Victor Olofsson rebound and scored. The play was reviewed for a kicking motion by Skinner but stood. Twenty-five seconds later, Asplund quickly stashed a Jacob Bryson rebound off a skittering initial shot. Mittelstadt's empty-netter ended any chance of the Flyers' forcing overtime.