Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is as well acquainted with Jack Quinn’s shot as anyone on the Buffalo Sabres, having faced it in practice since they became teammates in the AHL in 2020.

Rochester Americans coach Seth Appert used to have Quinn fire away in shooting drills for the goalies. Luukkonen's still not a fan of having to deal with Quinn’s hard, deceptive release.

“Yeah, I hate it,” Luukkonen said. “There’s not much else to say. He doesn’t care about the goalies too much. The only thing he wants to do is score.”

Luukkonen beamed, however, while talking about Quinn’s performance on Friday. Quinn scored a pair of goals in a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, which inched the Sabres closer back into the race for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

The goals were Quinn’s first since he returned to the lineup on March 27, having missed the previous 23 games with a lower-body injury. He previously missed the first 32 games of the season due to offseason surgery to repair an injured Achilles’ tendon.

“First of all, he’s just an unbelievable guy,” Luukkonen said. “I don’t think anybody here or anybody on the other team has a bad word to say about him. It hasn’t been an easy season or offseason for him. How he played today was unbelievable. How he showed up today and how he showed up since coming back from injury is unbelievable.”

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen addresses the media

The win by the Sabres brought them within four points of both the Flyers and the New York Islanders, who are tied for the second wild card. The Islanders have played one less game than the Flyers and thus currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Sabres have five games remaining to make up that ground, four of which will be played on the road. Their next game is Sunday afternoon in Detroit against a Red Wings team that is also in the thick of the race, now three points ahead of the Sabres after losing their own game Friday night.

It took a mid-game reset for the Sabres to beat the Flyers, who came to Buffalo with no shortage of motivation after losing what once seemed like a tight grip on the playoffs with losses in their previous five contests. Tage Thompson deked his way to a goal that opened the scoring 10:01 into the contest, but the Flyers responded with a hard push that lasted well into the second period.

Luukkonen made a series of point-blank saves to hold the Flyers off the board until Noah Cates finally buried a wrist shot from the right circle to tie the score 9:07 into the second period. The Flyers were outshooting the Sabres 23-5 at the time of Cates’ goal and had just spent a long shift in the Buffalo end.

Sabres coach Don Granato called a timeout to give his players a chance to refocus. His message was to play harder and simplify.

“That timeout was big for us,” Rasmus Dahlin said. “We just went back to the simple stuff. We were trying to complicate things when they started pushing and once, we just started to do the right things out there, we played better, for sure.”

Dahlin scored on a wrist shot from the high slot to put the Sabres back in front with 5:09 remaining in the period. Quinn scored from the same spot with 5.1 seconds on the clock before the intermission.

When Owen Tippett buried a slap shot from the point to cut the Sabres’ lead to one midway through the third period, it was Quinn who responded again less than five minutes later. This time, Quinn shot on rookie goaltender Ivan Fedotov from the left circle and scored on his own rebound.

Quinn seemed to have not missed a beat when he returned from his Achilles’ injury in December. He scored 13 points (5+8) in 21 games, building on the promise he showed as a rookie last season. His more recent return from injury came under different circumstances, with no practice time available before he slotted into the lineup against Ottawa.

“Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have practice time with us, so the first three games for him he didn’t look like himself,” Granato said. “That was substitute for practice and he’s looked much better since.”

Quinn looking like himself means the addition of a player who Granato describes as one of the most cerebral on the team, a contributor at even strength and on both sides of special teams.

 Oh, and a shooter, too – just ask his teammates.

“He’s a shooter,” Dahlin said. “He can deke, too, though. His shot is unbelievable, the release he’s got. He’s just got to continue to shoot and he will be a top scorer in this league, I think.”

Here's more from the win over the Flyers.

1. The Red Wings and Capitals both lost in regulation on Friday. The Red Wings were tied entering the third period of a 4-3 loss to the Rangers. The Capitals led 2-0 but allowed four unanswered goals by the Hurricanes, the final three of which were scored in the final 10 minutes.

Detroit and Washington both sit three points ahead of the Sabres.

2. Dahlin became the second defenseman in Sabres history to score 19 goals in a single season. Phil Housley accomplished the feat in six separate seasons and holds the franchise record for goals by a defenseman with 31 in 1983-84.

3. Luukkonen made 32 saves, including stops on eight high-danger attempts (according to Natural Stat Trick). He turned away Cates with the block on an odd-man rush when the game was still scoreless in the first period. In the second period, he made back-to-back pad saves to rob Olle Lycksell on what would have been the tying goal.

Earlier Friday, Luukkonen was named as a finalist for the Rick Martin Memorial Trophy – voted on by fans to determine the Sabres player who they believe best demonstrates on-ice excellence, resiliency, and dedication to the community.

Luukkonen was also selected by the Buffalo chapter of the Pro Hockey Writers Association as the Sabres’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given annually "to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."

“Having Upie back there, it’s unbelievable,” Dahlin said. “He keeps us in the games. He creates momentum just by saves. He’s unbelievable.”

Up next

The Sabres open a two-game road trip in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. The game will be nationally televised on TNT with puck drop scheduled for 1 p.m. Radio coverage can be found on WGR 550.