Flyers’ late third-period collapse all but ends playoff hopes
It was the Philadelphia Flyers’ last chance to impress before Monday’s trade deadline, and they did anything but.
The Flyers dominated the first period and took a 2-0 lead, but the Sabres came roaring back. Buffalo tied the game with two quick goals in 46 seconds early in the second period. Shayne Gostisbehere scored in the third period to take a 3-2 lead, but the Flyers allowed three unanswered goals in the final 3:03 of the game for a 5-3 final score.
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The Flyers are now six points behind the Bruins, who have three games in hand. With the trade deadline tomorrow, Chuck Fletcher has no choice but to sell.
After two disappointing games against the Sabres in Buffalo, the Flyers really needed a strong performance on Sunday afternoon.
The Flyers were very clearly the better team, as they should be, in terms of both the eye test and stats early on. They had more offensive-zone time and chances, and it paid off with a 2-0 lead after one period of play.
Buffalo got the first great chance of the game with a power play early on, but the Sabres were the Sabres. The Flyers killed off the penalty with ease as Buffalo had a few unforced errors in the two minutes.
Nolan Patrick made a nice play in the offensive zone to steal the puck and feed Kevin Hayes in the slot, but Linus Ullmark had the answer.
The Flyers controlled play in the first half of the period, but they didn’t have anything on the scoreboard to show for it. That changed shortly after the midway mark of the frame.
A great passing play led to a bit of a lucky goal for the Flyers. Travis Sanheim got the puck up to Tanner Laczynski, who made a cross-ice pass to Nicolas Aube-Kubel to enter the zone. He got the puck to Shayne Gostisbehere, whose shot/pass bounced off a crashing Oskar Lindblom before Linus Ullmark kicked it into his own net.
It’s a game of inches and the Flyers created their own luck here.
The Flyers didn’t let up. Just 39 seconds later, Artuu Ruotsalainen took a delay of game penalty. They got some good chances on the power play and finally converted with a second left on the man advantage.
Sean Couturier‘s shot rebounded into the slot, where Joel Farabee corralled it and his shot hit the post. It pinballed in the crease before Farabee poked it home.
Another somewhat luck-based goal had the Flyers up 2-0. But it was a well-deserved 2-0 lead. They took that lead into intermission.
The Flyers had the edge in pretty much every category at 5-on-5 in the first: 18-12 shot attempts, 12-6 shots, 8-1 scoring chances, 3-1 high-danger chances, 0.57-0.3 expected goals (70.98 xGF%), and, of course, 1-0 goals.
They're controlling play and getting to the right areas. pic.twitter.com/0AH7XwDtVY
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) April 11, 2021
Unfortunately, the Sabres turned things around in the second period. And they turned things around fast.
Riley Sheahan had a backhand chance in front, but Carter Hart had the answer
The Sabres scored two goals in 46 seconds to tie the game shortly after that, though.
The first goal was the result of some bad defense off of a faceoff. Jeff Skinner, a winger, beat Couturier clean and fed Sam Reinhart for the tap-in goal.
You can’t have that happen in any game, let alone a must-win game against the Sabres.
That goal snowballed into another one just 46 seconds later. Laughton lost control of the puck along the wall and the Sabres moved it around to Arttu Ruotsalainen, who one-timed it home.
Two poor defensive plays erased all of the Flyers’ hard work from the first period.
It looked like the Flyers would quickly retake the lead, but Aube-Kubel missed the net on a great opportunity. Lindblom won a battle to Laczynski in the slot, and Aube-Kubel had a wide-open net to shoot at. But he missed wide.
The Flyers continued to push and the third line had some good chances. However, they also couldn’t convert on a great chance.
That was a theme in the third period as Ullmark made a ridiculous stick save on Couturier at the goal line.
The Flyers played better in the second half of the period, but the two early goals had it tied through two periods of play.
There were 20 minutes left for the Flyers to essentially keep their playoff hopes alive.
Travis Sanheim had a scoring chance from the slot after good work along the wall, but he was denied. However, another defenseman gave the Flyers the lead again.
Farabee went to work in the offensive zone to win a battle. He then fed a great pass to Gostisbehere, who sniped a goal to put the Flyers up 3-2.
A great pass and shot by Farabee and Gostisbehere.
The Flyers didn’t make it easy for themselves, though, Aube-Kubel took a hooking penalty and the Sabres had a power play.
Killing off penalties was something that plagued the Flyers in March, but they’ve been a lot better recently. They killed this one off with ease as well.
Things got physical in the latter half of the period. Carter Hart even got into it.
Getting physical in Philly. pic.twitter.com/4J4PS37MV9
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) April 11, 2021
Robert Hagg and Colin Miller each got roughing minors, and the Flyers had a few good chances during the two minutes of 4-on-4 play.
The Flyers were the much better team in the third period, they just needed to close it out. But they couldn’t.
The Sabres scored three unanswered goals to win it 5-3.
First, Jeff Skinner was credited with the goal after the puck snuck through Hart.
Then, 25 seconds later, Rasmus Asplund got the rebound to give the Sabres the lead.
Casey Mittelstadt hit the empty net to put the fork in the Flyers.
The Flyers lost 5-3 and it’ll be an interesting 22 or so hours leading up to Monday’s trade deadline.
Photo: Heather Barry Images