The Flyers entered Sunday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres looking at a chance to climb within five points of the Boston Bruins in the wildcard race. A late third period goal by Michael Raffl helped the Flyers earn the two points needed with a 2-1 victory over the Sabres.
The Flyers held momentum most of the first period, out-shooting the Sabres 15-5 in the opening frame. They were unable to cash in on another opportunity, though, as the period would end with the Flyers holding a 1-0 lead.
The Sabres took some of the momentum away come the second period and were eventually able to cash in on one of their opportunities. Flyers Braydon Coburn and Claude Giroux were both called for penalties at 12:25 of the period. This gave the Sabres a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage.
The Flyers got their own chance first while shorthanded. An attempted clear by Nick Schultz bounced off the boards and found Chris Vandevelde, who had just come off the bench. Vandevelde came in all alone on Neuvirth, but the Sabre goaltender was able to close off the five-hole and make the save.
With just 28 seconds left in the two-man advantage, the Sabres would strike. Nikita Zadorov would blast a shot from the point that would make its way past goaltender Ray Emery to tie the game at 1-1. Zadorov’s goal was the Sabres first on a 5-on-3 advantage since the 2012-2013 season. The Sabres would go on to out-shoot the Flyers 11-9 in the second period and would go into the final frame tied.
The two teams traded chances in the third period before the Flyers would put the final tally on the board. With 7:15 to play, Michael Raffl would find the puck behind the net and make a wraparound attempt that would trickle through the legs of Neuvirth and into the back of the net to give the Flyers the 2-1. Raffl was playing in his first game since Jan. 20, after suffering from pneumonia.
“I think Del Zotto did a really good job keeping the play alive, pinching down. And White just got me the puck behind the net,” Raffl said in an interview. “I think their goalie didn’t really know what was going on. I just tried to jam it at the net and it went it.”
Emery made a couple of big saves as the period finished and the Flyers picked out the 2-1 victory and inched to within five points of the second wild card spot. The team has picked up points in nine straight games, with a record of 6-0-3. It’s the first time the Flyers have had a nine game point streak since March 8-26, 2011 when they went 5-0-4.
“We just have to have to keep going. That game is over now; we have to put it behind us,” Simmonds said in an interview. “We’ve got a big home stand here and we’ve been playing really well at home for most of the year. So we’ve got to keep that up.”
The Flyers return home to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Puck-drop is set for 7 p.m.