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5 Observations: Sam Ersson, Flyers’ Defense Shine and Blank Buffalo

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Sam Ersson, Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers
Kevin Hayes congratulates Flyers goalie Sam Ersson after his first career shutout Monday in Buffalo. Photo: AP.

Led by rookie Sam Ersson’s first NHL shutout, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Buffalo Sabres, 4-0, on Monday.

The visiting Flyers dominated the first period, going up 3-0 against the NHL’s highest-scoring team. What worked for the Flyers in the first period didn’t work in the second, but Ersson took care of that by supplying all the answers.

He finished with 28 saves, and he has won his first four NHL decisions. It was the first time the Sabres were shut out this season.

This was the Flyers’ first win off the second half of a back-to-back set; they had been 0-6.

Off a set play in the third period. Scott Laughton won a faceoff, and the puck went to Kevin Hayes, who found Wade Allison for a backdoor goal and a 4-0 lead. For Allison, it was his fifth goal of the season at 1:56 of the third period.

The Flyers were playing back-to-back games, but their conditioning helped them keep pace for most of the game. The overall team defense was excellent. Morgan Frost was very strong off the puck, and the team was forechecking with a vengeance.

“We were good through most of the game. I think they turned it up on us, and that’s where Ersy played well,” coach John Tortorella said. “That position kind of determines the being of the team. That’s what has been impressive about him. He’s been very calm. It affects the team. He’s grown since (his shaky debut in) Carolina. I’m so happy for him.”

Here are five observations:

1. Ersson played calmly in the net.

Ersson made a big glove save on Tyson Jost midway in the third, and then he covered up another shot. The Flyers were out of gas when the Sabres surged and that was a big moment in this game. A few minutes later, with the Sabres getting more chances, he flashed the leather again to stop Alex Tuch.

“They have a lot of skilled players and we kept them off the power play. These are the challenges you are going to have to handle,” Ersson said. “I did think about not letting in that last-minute goal again.”

In his previous start, Ersson lost his shutout with 39.8 seconds left in a 4-1 win in Anaheim.

Ersson is now 4-0 with a 2.30 GAA, and .924 save percentage.

2. Noah Cates had a dominant defensive game besides scoring a goal.

The Flyers made it a 3-0 game after they put on a good forecheck, and Travis Konecny (two assists) found Cates by the net. Cates buried it at 14:58 of the first period. It was his fifth goal of the year, and Konecny now has a nine-game point streak. Cates has really blossomed. He was on this path last season and has built on it.

3. The Flyers’ power play was still bad.

The Flyers got the first power play. They gave up a shorthanded chance early. The zone entries were still weak. Peyton Krebs had a breakaway out of the penalty box, but Ersson made a big save. The Flyers were 0-3 for the evening on the power pla.

4. Joel Farabee is getting back his scoring touch.

Joel Farabee (two points) scored his ninth goal of the year after defenseman Travis Sanheim passed the puck in his direction. It took some weird bounces, and the Flyers’ forward calmed it down and wristed it past Sabres goalie Craig Anderson at 13:31 of the opening period. That made it a 2-0 game. Konecny got the other helper on the play.  Farabee didn’t have the same zip on his wrist shot at the beginning of the season, probably because of the neck surgery.

5. Zack MacEwen scored his first goal since Nov. 5.

Zack MacEwen got his fourth goal of the season off a nice behind-the-net pass from Nick Deslauriers. That made it 1-0 Flyers at 2:04 of the opening period. The Flyers’ grind line really set the tone for this game.

For MacEwen, it was his third goal of the season and his first in 28 games.

Breakaways

Tony DeAngelo played well after being benched for most of Sunday’s game against the Leafs. The defenseman had seven shot attempts (four on goal) and was plus-2 in 22:18. … This game was the first time the Flyers scored three times in the first period this season. … Former Sabre Rasmus Ristolainen was plus-2 and blocked two shots. … Hayes and Sanheim led the Flyers with five shots apiece, and Patrick Brown had four hits. … Mattias Samuelsson leads the Sabres in hits this season. … Buffalo had 12 former first-round picks in its lineup. … The Flyers host the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

Report: Flyers Could Deal Defenseman Ivan Provorov 

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