PHILADELPHIA - When he spoke to the media on Tuesday morning, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma made it a point to stress how important it'd be for his team to keep a "lethal" Flyers power play off the ice in their game at Wells Fargo Center. Later that night, we found out why.
With 3:20 remaining in the regulation, the Sabres were sitting comfortably with a 3-1 lead when Dmitry Kulikov was sent to the box for charging after an open-ice hit on Jakub Voracek. Before you knew it, Voracek was lifting the puck over Anders Nilsson to score the walk-off goal in a 4-3 shootout win for the Flyers.
Buffalo led 3-0 entering the third period. Travis Konecny scored a power-play goal 4:30 into the period to get Philadelphia on the board, Brayden Schenn scored with Kulikov in the box and Mark Streit tied the game with 1:51 remaining in regulation while Sam Reinhart served a penalty for high-sticking.
"We took those penalties because we turned over the puck," Bylsma said afterward. "We turned over the puck at the blue line that led to the Kulikov penalty and we turned the puck over at the other blue line and we took a penalty. Because of the turnovers, both of those were pucks that ended up in the back of our net.
"I don't want to dissect the penalties because I'm not sure I agree with all of them. But the reason why we took the penalties I do want to talk about, and that's the way we managed the puck."
The first two periods went entirely in Buffalo's favor, with Nilsson picking up right where he left off in his phenomenal preseason in the first period and the Sabres pouncing for three goals in the second. Tyler Ennis opened the scoring and Matt Moulson continued his hot start with two power-play goals. They even chased starting goalie Michal Neuvirth, who was replaced in net by Steve Mason.
Even after Konecny scored in the third, Bylsma said the team felt confident they would still put the game away. They ended up being outshot 19-5 in the period and 41-25 overall.
"This is something we should be so far past this right now," alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves. We had the game wrapped up, 3-0 going into the third with Anders playing a phenomenal game. We know we have to be much better and we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves and find a way to bounce back from this."
The players in the dressing room shared their coach's sentiment in being more upset with the turnovers that led to the penalties in the third period than with the penalties themselves, stressing their inability to get the puck deep in the zone as a reason for their falling behind.
The other prevailing sentiment among the team's veterans was that there is no other way to deal with a disappointing loss of this nature other than to use it as a learning tool for a team still figuring out how to close out games.
"We have to learn how to win in the third when we have a lead and that's get pucks out, get pucks in and continue to forecheck," Moulson said. "All you can do is you have to learn from it and learn what it takes to win. Our coaching staff preaches it; we know what we have to do. We just have to execute."
Strong start for Nilsson
It had been nearly a month since Nilsson had last taken the ice for a game entering Tuesdayl his last outing was a 23-save preseason shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sept. 29. Since that night he'd seen his exhibition schedule cut short due to illness and then had to wait for his turn as Robin Lehner made the first four starts of the regular season.
With Lehner sick and unable to make the trip with the team, Nilsson finally got the nod for his regular-season debut. He didn't miss a beat, making 38 saves on 41 shots.
The Sabres didn't come alive offensively until the second period, and it was Nilsson who kept them in the game up to that point. His 11-save first period was highlighted by a sprawling stop with the pad on Matt Read, who shot alone from in-tight. In the second period, Nilsson stifled the Flyers again on a point-blank shot from Wayne Simmonds.
Video: BUF@PHI: Nilsson makes sprawling pad save
"I felt OK," Nilsson said. "It's obviously almost always something you can do different, but overall I felt good. I felt like I saw the puck well and I felt I made some good saves and I felt that communication with the defensemen and all that worked great."
Seeing their backup goaltender excel is especially promising for the Sabres given their upcoming the schedule. The Sabres play three games in four days beginning on Thursday, and their 19 back-to-back sets this season are tied with Columbus for the most in the League.
Moulson's hot start continues
A lot was made coming into the game of Moulson's move to the top line alongside O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo, but he did his damage Tuesday the same way he has throughout the young season so far: on the power play.
Moulson's two power-play goals in the second period on Tuesday give him four for the season, which leads the team. He snagged the puck off a faceoff and scored in front of the net 3:56 into the period and then ripped a one-time feed from Rasmus Ristolainen to chase Neuvirth on the next man advantage.
Video: BUF@PHI: Moulson fights for puck, backhands home PPG
"I thought we got pucks in and got on our forecheck, put pucks towards the net," Moulson said. "When you do that you get some bounces, get guys to the net and get some dirty goals. We did that in the second and got away from it in the third."
Ennis gets on the board
The Sabres' first goal of the night was also the first of the season for Ennis, who was able to redirect a shot by Zemgus Girgensons in past Neuvirth.
Video: BUF@PHI: Ennis deflects Girgensons' shot, scores
The goal was Ennis' first since Oct. 27, 2015, two days short of a calendar year, which he also scored in Philadelphia. Ennis saw his season end in Decmeber of last year due to a concussion.
The Sabres will return to Buffalo for practice on Wednesday before beginning their 3-in-4 stretch at home against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. It will be Hockey Fights Cancer Night at KeyBank Center, which will include a ceremonial faceoff and lavender warmup jerseys to be auctioned off following the game. "Tickets and T-shirt" packages are available for $99.
Puck drop on Thursday is set for 7 p.m. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can hear the game live on WGR 550.