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5 Observations: Emotional Night for a Flyers D-man; Ersson Rebounds

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Louie Belpedio, Philadelphia Flyers.
Defenseman Louis Belpedio is congratulated after scoring his first NHL goal Friday, helping the Flyers build an early 3-0 lead. Photo: AP.

The shorthanded Philadelphia Flyers, highlighted by Louie Belpedio’s first career goal, snapped a three-game losing streak Friday and whipped Buffalo, 5-1, at the boo-happy KeyBank Center.

Philly (5-5-1) avenged Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the visiting Sabres, and it did it with two key players sidelined by injuries: goalie Carter Hart and top-line center Sean Couturier.

“I thought we played a good game against them a couple nights ago, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” center Scott Laughton said. “Tonight, we did.”

Buffalo  (5-6) is now 12-2-1 when it wears its retro jerseys, with both losses against Flyers goalie Sam Ersson.

Here are five observations:

1. Backup goalie Sam Ersson had his best game of the season.

The 24-year-old goalie had struggled in his three appearances (4.91 GAA, .763 save percentage) before standing tall on Friday.

“Sam has shown us many times he can bounce back,” coach John Tortorella said before the game, referring to Ersson’s strong play in 2022-23.

Ersson stopped many high-quality chances and turned aside 21 of 22 shots overall.

“You have to find ways to bounce back, and going in here and knowing this is where my first shutout was (last season) was something to motivate me,” Ersson said.

Before Henri Jokiharju scored to cut the Flyers’ lead to 4-1 with 17:36 left in regulation, Ersson had stopped all 17 shots, making him 46 for 46 in his only two career games in Buffalo at that point.

Winger Bobby Brink (two points) made it 5-1 by scoring his third goal of the season with 8:32 left. Brink (eight points in 10 games) has been one of the NHL’s top rookies early in the season.

2. Travis Konecny ties for NHL goal-scoring lead and is chasing Reggie Leach.

A turnover by John Peterka led to a breakaway and Konecny did not miss, beating Ukko-Pekka Luukkoken to the glove side and giving the Flyers a 3-0 lead with 5:03 to go in the first. It was Konecny’s ninth goal, tying him with Detroit’s Alex DeBrincat and Anaheim’s Frank Vatrano  for the NHL lead.

Only one Flyer has ever finished first in the NHL in goals scored — Reggie “The Rifle” Leach with 61 in 1975-76.

By the way, the Flyers have a league-high 18 goals in the first period this season.

3. Scott Laughton breaks drought.

Laughton, moved up in the lineup because of an injury to Couturier, has played well and picked up some impressive assists this season. But he hadn’t been able to find the back of the net.

Until Friday.

On a crisp passing play with Brink and Joel Farabee (two assists), Laughton took a feed from the latter and whipped a left-circle shot to the far side after 63 seconds. That gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead against Luukkoken, who stopped 38 of the Flyers’ 40 shots on Wednesday.

It was Laughton’s first goal in 21 games, including 11 this season.

4. Memorable goal for a well-traveled Flyers defenseman.

Louie Belpedio, 27, turned on the red light for the first time in his NHL career.

Playing in his ninth career game, and fifth with the Flyers since recently being recalled from the AHL’s Phantoms, Belpedio scored from the right circle as a blocked shot landed on his stick. The goal, scored 28 seconds after Laughton tallied, gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead with 18:29 left in the first.

“It’s pretty special,” Belpedio said on the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast. “I’ve always put in a lot of work. I took the scenic route to get there — obviously a lot of games (309) in the AHL.”

Belpedio dedicated the goal to his late grandparents, saying they were his biggest fans.

“I have a feeling they were looking down on me,” he said.

5. Defenseman Egor Zamula had another solid game.

Quietly, Zamula, 23, continues to play well in his first full season. He broke up a handful of scoring chances with a good stick Friday and finished with a plus-2 rating. He leads the Philadelphia Flyers at plus-8.

Breakaways

Garnet Hathaway converted a great feed from Ryan Poehling to give the Flyers a 4-0 lead late in the second. With Couturier sidelined and listed as day to day, Poehling returned to the lineup and centered Nic Deslauriers and Hathaway. Hathaway pounded Dylan Cozens in a fight late in the third. … The Flyers had nine of the game’s first 10 shots. … Buffalo defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, a Vorhees native, was injured in the second period and did not return. … Heading into Friday, Boston’s David Pasternak was the only NHL player with more even-strength goals (7) than Cam Atkinson (6). …  … The Flyers host the Kings on Saturday on Military Appreciation Night.

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