PHILADELPHIA - A hooking penalty on the first shift of the game snowballed into an early two-goal lead for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres never caught up in a 5-2 loss at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.
The Sabres killed the early penalty, which was assessed to Johan Larsson 36 seconds into the contest, but Oskar Lindblom scored from the side of the net to put the Flyers on the board at 2:48 and Jakub Voracek cleaned up a rebound to double their lead five minutes later.
"I just thought they came out with more intensity than us, more desperation," Sabres captain Jack Eichel said. "Just from the first shift, I don't think we were ready to play and then they were on the power play. It seems like we're chasing the game from there."
Video: BUF Recap: Eichel, Mittelstadt score in 5-2 loss
Eichel scored on a power play to extend his point streak to six games and put the Sabres on the board later in the first period, but a James van Riemsdyk deflection restored the Flyers' lead at 15:13 in the second.
Casey Mittelstadt scored to bring Buffalo back within one before the second intermission, but a bad bounce off the stick of newly-acquired defenseman Brandon Montour in the offensive zone led to Travis Sanheim scoring the Flyers' fourth goal on a rush 46 seconds into the third.
Brian Elliott shut the Sabres down from that point on, stopping all 14 shots he faced in the final period of a 34-save effort, and Claude Giroux added an empty-net goal with 2:55 remaining. Carter Hutton stopped 40 shots for the Sabres.
"I think it's just disappointing because it's a game of mistakes and right now we're making more mistakes than the other team," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "I still like the fight in our group though, sticking together and fighting until the end, but you can't be chasing or trading chances with teams. That's not our game."
Housley called for better communication at the net front, where the Flyers earned the first three of their goals. In each instance, the player who scored was unchecked.
"It's just about taking your guy," Housley said. "'Take him, I got him.' Just bring clarity to the situation. We've got too many guys standing around in front of our net, whacking at pucks. That's just about picking up and being tougher to play against in that area."
The Sabres fell behind the Flyers in the standings with the loss, eight points out of a playoff spot.
"This was an important game for us, but we're going to stick together in here," Mittelstadt said. "I mean, what a group of guys we got. It's pretty special. We're going to stick together here and we're going to keep fighting no matter what happens.
"It definitely doesn't feel good, but we're always going to stick together, for sure."
The game marked the Sabres debut for Montour, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Brendan Guhle and a first-round pick on Sunday. He skated 18:11, registering three shots and seven attempts.
Sabres general manager Jason Botterill touted Montour's ability in transition, a skill the defenseman put on display with his cool pass under pressure that led to Mittelstadt's goal in the second period. He fended off Flyers forward Scott Laughton before sending a short feed to Conor Sheary to begin the rush.
"I really liked his game," Housley said. "He really attacked the game. He tried to make a difference out there. I loved the speed he brought, his tenacity. It's just a work in progress, he's just getting accustomed to his teammates, but I liked his game."
Montour felt his debut was a mixed bag, with kinks to be worked out in regard to learning the system and forming chemistry with his new teammates.
"Some plays in the D-zone, our transition game, seeing where guys are and whatnot," Montour said. "I think it's just things where I need to get used to it and it comes in time, obviously. That's pretty much just the communication part and knowing where to be."
The Sabres return home to host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.