Jaroslav Spacek had the first two-goal game by a Buffalo defenseman in more than 16 months and couldn't enjoy it. The Sabres three times wiped out deficits to tie the game and the offense generated 42 shots on goal in a hostile road environment.
But even with all that, there were no rewards Thursday in the Wachovia Center.
Too much Mike Richards. Too many ill-timed mistakes. The result was a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in a game that was there for the taking in the final seven minutes.
Spacek lost the puck to Richards behind the net and it led to the tiebreaking goal by Mike Knuble with 6:09 left. Richards -- who scored his NHL-leading sixth short-handed goal of the season in the second period -- then added one of two empty-net tallies in the final 36 seconds to complete the first five-point game of his NHL career.
It was a loss with huge repercussions. With the chance to get within one point of the fourth-place Flyers in the Eastern Conference with a regulation win, Buffalo instead finds itself tied for seventh with Florida and only three points ahead of No. 9 Carolina.
Spacek, who has four goals in the last seven games after entering February with just two all season, could not absolve himself from the go-ahead goal. It came with Toni Lydman in the penalty box for hooking.
Spacek took a back pass from Teppo Numminen behind the net and simply didn't move it quickly enough as Richards deflected the puck to Simon Gagne, who fed Knuble for a tap-in that snapped a 3-3 tie.
"We battled hard three times and I made the mistake on the [penalty kill] that cost us the game," Spacek said. "Teppo chipped the puck back to me on the wall and I wanted to get past their two forwards because ours were open. But it just hit Richards' stick and we couldn't recover quick enough."
"When you bump it back, you really want to keep it in that direction," said coach Lindy Ruff. "I don't know what he was trying, whether he was trying to hit Teppo again or Jochen [Hecht]. Usually we keep it moving in the opposite direction [it came from]. We messed it up."
It's the seventh straight game the Sabres' normally solid penalty killers have given up a goal but it's hardly fair, however, to indict Spacek for this loss. The Sabres were short-handed because Hecht and Jason Pominville failed to clear the puck from the zone just before Lydman's penalty and that was a prevailing theme on the night.
Pominville was minus-3 in the game and Hecht was minus-2. They were on the ice with Clark MacArthur, Craig Rivet (who was also minus-3) and Chris Butler for a brutal 76-second shift in the second period that resulted in the Flyers' second goal.
With the Flyers just about to concede a change, Hecht tried to carry the puck out of the zone and was easily stripped by Simon Gagne. A couple seconds later, Braydon Coburn snuck in from the point to beat Ryan Miller.
"I was trying to carry it out and Gagne got a stick on that and kept it in," Hecht said. "We were running around, didn't get the puck out a couple times when we had the chance. It's a tough way to give up a goal."
The Sabres had 19 shots in the second period and scored all three of their goals, two by Spacek and one by Derek Roy that forged a 3-3 tie with 30.3 seconds left. But Roy fell on another power play and that led to a three-on-one break that Richards converted into the Flyers' 15th short-handed goal of the season on a Kimmo Timonen feed.
It was just the second against Buffalo all season, and the only other one was an empty-netter Nov. 22 by Islanders defenseman Mark Streit.
"We put a lot of work into the game and battled hard," Pominville said. "The tough part about it is putting that much effort into a game and coming out with nothing."
"We had a lot of great opportunities," added Ruff. "We had the one bad shift that gave them energy and a goal [in the second period] but we bounced back. Third period, we were garnering most of the play and the game was there for grabs. We turned the puck over again and it cost us dearly."
Slapshots: Knuble's power-play goal snaps tie with 6:09 left. ...Buffalo battles back three times to wipe out Flyers' leads. ... Spacek scores twice and Roy adds other goal.
Fast fact: It was the first multi-goal game by a Buffalo defenseman since Spacek had two on Oct. 13, 2007 against Washington.
Next: Saturday vs. New York Rangers, 7 p.m. in HSBC Arena.