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Neuvirth's 36 saves help Sabres top Flyers in shootout

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Buffalo Sabres had played five straight one-goal games before facing the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. Having lost four of them, captain Brian Gionta said he believed it was just a matter of time before the puck started bouncing the Sabres' way.

Buffalo got all the bounces it needed, including one courtesy of Gionta, in a 3-2 shootout win against Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center.

Brian Flynn scored in the fourth round of the shootout to clinch the victory. The Sabres (17-37-4) improved to 7-2 in shootouts this season.

Flynn skated down the middle of the ice, faked a forehand shot, dragged it back to his right and lifted a shot over the left pad of Flyers goalie Ray Emery.

"I wasn't in the first three, so I tried to have something," Flynn said. "Watch the goalie a little bit and have something if it's tied after the first three [shooters]. Just a move I work on a lot, and it paid off."

The Sabres improved to 2-3-1 over the stretch of six consecutive one-goal games.

"For the last number of games, I thought our effort has been there," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "All one-goal games, and to finally come out on the better side of it is a good feeling, for sure."

Gionta and Nicolas Deslauriers scored in regulation for the Sabres. Michal Neuvirth made 36 saves through overtime, including a point-blank stop on Chris VandeVelde with 2:40 remaining in regulation. He then stopped three of four Flyers shooters in the tiebreaker.

It was Neuvirth's first win since Nov. 15; he was 0-10-1 in his previous 12 appearances.

"It's a big relief," Neuvirth said. "Pretty happy I'm not going to hear any more questions about the losing streak. For me personally, it's big."

Ryan White and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers (24-23-11). Emery, making his sixth straight start, made 30 saves through overtime.

Philadelphia moved to within six points of the idle Boston Bruins in the race for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but a home loss to Buffalo, which is last in the NHL standings, felt like a missed opportunity. It was the Flyers' second straight loss to a team below them in the standings; they lost 5-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

"It's rough," Flyers defenseman Mark Streit said. "It's annoying. We seem to have a hard time against teams a little bit behind in the standings. You know those points are crucial, and we couldn't find a way today to get it done."

The Flyers had their chances, with 38 shots on goal. They went 1-for-4 on the power play, including a missed chance on a man-advantage midway through the third period when the Sabres' Chris Stewart was sent off for hooking.

"We're definitely not happy about it," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "In saying that, tonight we've got to find a way to score another goal. We didn't."

With a tough back-to-back set coming Saturday and Sunday against the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals, the Flyers remain positive that a postseason spot remains within their grasp.

"We're playing good hockey," Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux said. "We're playing as a team. Every game is tight at the end of the year, and we know that. We just need to play 60 minutes of it. ... We had good chemistry out there, we had a lot of good chances. But it's obviously disappointing."

The Sabres opened the scoring on a goal by Deslauriers that he mostly fanned on but got enough to send it knuckling past Emery at 4:41 of the first period for his first goal in 21 games. It was Deslauriers' fifth goal.

The Flyers tied the game less than three minutes later on White's first goal since Feb. 8, 2014, when he played for the Montreal Canadiens, but the Sabres took back the lead 38 seconds into the second period on Gionta's sixth goal.

Torrey Mitchell put a bouncing shot on net that Emery stopped but couldn't control. Gionta got to the front of the net and batted the puck out of the air and past Emery.

The goal gave Gionta 500 career points; he's the 49th American-born player to reach that milestone. The assist was Mitchell's 100th career point.

"One of those bounces that you'll take," Gionta said. "You've got to work for your bounces. It's finally nice to get one. ... Just throwing pucks at the net is a big key. And you've got to have guys going [to the net]. Mitchell throwing the puck at the net is the first key. We haven't had that all year consistently, but when we do it we get those bounces."

The Flyers tied the game 2-2 on Voracek's sharp-angled power-play goal off the rebound of a Wayne Simmonds shot at 8:45 of the second period. It was Voracek's 19th goal of the season but his first against a goalie in 15 games, dating to Jan. 12 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Voracek had an empty-net goal against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 8.

With the assist, Simmonds has at least a point in six straight games, tying his career-best streak; he has four goals and four assists in that span. He also had a six-game point streak from Nov. 25-Dec. 5, 2009, with the Los Angeles Kings.

The Sabres' Zemgus Girgensons came close to breaking the 2-2 tie when he got into the Flyers crease with 5:11 remaining and knocked in the puck, but after the referees conferred, it was ruled Girgensons had pushed the puck between his legs with his glove.

Neuvirth did enough to keep the Sabres in the game, making 16 total saves in the third period and overtime, including 12 in the third.

"For a young goaltender trying to establish himself as a No. 1, the difference-maker, that's what you've got to be," Nolan said. "And he was the difference-maker tonight. He was a big reason we got the two points, and it was good for him."

Thursday started a stretch of six games in 10 days for the Sabres, who host the New York Rangers on Friday. Buffalo hopes to keep its strong play going.

"We've got a tough schedule coming up, a lot of games," Neuvirth said. "But if you're going to play like that, I believe we've got a chance against any team."


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