The Philadelphia Flyers lost to Buffalo on Wednesday, 5-2, but the big news was that standout goaltender Carter Hart left the game midway through the first period with a mid-body injury. (See story.)
With Hart, the Flyers (4-5-1) are a competitive team.
Let’s just say they are, uh, different. And not in a good way.
The Flyers lost their third straight despite outshooting the Sabres (5-5), 40-15.They finished a 1-3 homestand, and the teams will have a rematch Friday in Buffalo.
“We started slow again. Gathered ourselves and I thought we played a pretty good hockey game from that point on,” coach John Tortorella said.
The Flyers had a 76-37 domination in shot attempts.
“We played a pretty good game for 50 minutes, and don’t get the results, so (we) go back to the drawing board,” center Scott Laughton said.
Here are five observations:
1. Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkoken was the difference.
The 6-foot-5, 217-pound Finland native appears to be coming of age. A former second-round draft pick, he stopped 38 of 40 shots and raised his record to 3-1.
He made perhaps his most important save of the night with a little under 14 minutes left, stopping Garnet Hathaway after he took a feed from Laughton and tried to finish a two-on-one. That kept the badly outshot Sabres ahead, 3-2.
Buffalo made it 4-2 when Tage Thompson (three points, plus-3) scored with 6:32 left. At that point, the Flyers faced a two-goal deficit despite outshooting Buffalo, 31-14.
“We had a lot of shots, a lot of great opportunities,” Cam Atkinson said. “We just have to capitalize on those opportunities.”
2. The Flyers did a nice job protecting Sam Ersson.
Ersson, 23, struggled in his first two games and didn’t get much support from his teammates.
On Wednesday, however, his teammates tightened the defense and did not allow Buffalo many quality chances.
Ersson was forced to make just six saves in the first 1 1/2 periods he played Wednesday. This helped: Philly won 71 percent of the faceoffs and outshot (20-11) and outhit (18-10) the Sabres over the first two periods
The Sabres finally struck against Ersson when defenseman Owen Power scored from the left circle with 16:57 left in regulation, beating the goalie to the far side to give Buffalo a 3-2 lead. Buffalo added two goals, including an empty-netter by Brandon Biro (two goals).
All told, Ersson stopped seven of nine shots.
“It’s tough for a goalie coming in cold, but he gave us a chance,” Laughton said. “There’s not much you can do on the last two shots. They were good shots by good players.”
Tonight, the @NHLFlyers & Sabres will use blue tape on their sticks in support of those affected by the tragic events in Lewiston, Maine,
on Oct 25. The autographed sticks will be available for auction through https://t.co/UHYOGm5M54 with all proceeds to Lewiston Strong.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) November 1, 2023
3. Joel Farabee, with a little help, got the Flyers off to a quick start.
Buffalo goalie Luukkonen was coming off his first career shutout, an impressive 4-0 win over Colorado.
Fifty-five seconds into Wednesday’s game, we learned he would not throw a zero.
Farabee skated into the zone on the left side and whipped an innocent-looking shot — the Flyers’ first of the game — toward Luukkonen.
Oops. It deflected off defenseman Henri Jokiharju and past a startled Luukkonen.
4. Farabee’s goal awakened the Sabres.
After Farabee’s fifth goal of the season, the Sabres woke up. They controlled play over the next eight minutes and had the next five shots, two produced goals by Casey Mittelstadt and Brandon Biro to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
It could have been worse. Buffalo had a first-period goal, scored against Hart, erased because of the Flyers’ successful offside challenge.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 1, 2023
5. Cam Atkinson continued to look like his old self.
After missing the entire 2022-23 season following neck surgery, Atkinson hasn’t skipped a beat. He redirected Travis Sanheim’s slick pass past Luukkonen with 3:47 remaining in the first, tying the game at 2-2.
Atkinson, 34,has six goals and nine points in 10 games.
Sanheim set up the Flyers’ first two goals. … Biro, 25, a Penn State product, scored his first two NHL goals. … Buffalo defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, a Voorhees native, had six hits and three blocked shots. … Owen Tippett led the Flyers with six shots and 10 shot attempts. … Anaheim goalie Lukas Dostal (4-1, 2.79 GAA, ..921 SP) was named the NHL’s rookie of the month. Flyers winger Bobby Brink (six points in eight games) was one of the players he edged. …Ryan Poehling was again a healthy scratch.