The Philadelphia Flyers hit town leading the Eastern Conference and were undeterred when they fell into a 2-0 hole in the first 10 minutes Tuesday. The Buffalo Sabres are 10th in the East and simply couldn't stand prosperity.
The Flyers chipped away and chipped away and ultimately came back to carve a 5-2 victory before 18,155 in HSBC Arena. The Sabres were once again denied their first three-game winning streak of the season, opening the second half with a thud. The Flyers snapped a 2-2 tie with three goals and outshot Buffalo, 17-11, over the final 20 minutes.
"We gave them everything they got," center Paul Gaustad said. "I don't think it was them overwhelming us and taking over the game. It was mistakes we gave them. We had control and gave it up. That lies on the players. We've got a system and didn't execute for 60 minutes."
Former Buffalo captain Daniel Briere conspired to burn his old team with a goal and three assists. Briere scored the tying goal with 1:49 left in the second period and assisted on Ville Leino's winner at 2:17 of the third.
The Sabres simply made too many mistakes in this one, overplaying pucks in the neutral zone or committing key turnovers at the worst times.
On the tying goal, Steve Montador got burned as Kimmo Timonen jumped him to steal a loose puck just as the Philadelphia defenseman scooted out of the penalty box. Tyler Myers overhandled the puck to Briere at center ice on Leino's goal and Andrej Sekera committed a blatant turnover at the Philly line 10 minutes later, sending Mike Richards off on a breakaway that put the Flyers up, 4-2, with 8:24 left.
Scott Hartnell scored the Flyers' first and fifth goals, the latter into an empty net. Briere assisted on both.
"It's just a lack of focus in that we handed them opportunities," Jason Pominville said. "They didn't have to work for it. We just gave them opportuntiies and they made us pay. Those are just mistakes that we made that they ended up capitalizing on. It's really frustrating."
"They were beating us to pucks and playing a smarter game," said defenseman Jordan Leopold. "The first period we were good. We were doing things right and should have kept our foot on the gas there."
Goaltender Ryan Miller and coach Lindy Ruff both were disappointed in the video review on the Leino play but the goal seemed to be OK. The Philadelphia forward clearly made a kicking motion with his right skate but appeared to miss the puck and it slid home off his stationary left boot.
"They got a pretty fortunate call to turn the tide in the third period and they felt pretty good about themselves after that," Miller said.
The Sabres return to action at home Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, who improved to 6-0-2 in their last eight games with Tuesday's 6-5 shootout win over Calgary. They are seven points ahead of Buffalo.
The Sabres got no help out of town whatsoever as Boston, Montreal and Florida also all won. Buffalo is now 10 points behind the Canadiens for the final playoff spot even though it just completed a 4-0-1 stretch.
The Sabres opened the game by doggedly working the puck down low as the line of Gaustad, Cody McCormick and Nathan Gerbe dominated the Philadephia defense. Gaustad pushed home a rebound at the five-minute mark and McCormick banked one in off goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at 9:59 to make it 2-0 as the Sabres had 12 of the game's first 15 shots.
"Pucks have to go deep all night no matter what. We can't change our game plan if we're leading, if we're behind, if it's tied," Miller said. "We have to be so consistent that it's almost annoying to other teams. That's how consistent we have to be."
The plumbers got the job done on offense for the Sabres while the big names didn't. Tim Connolly had one shot on goal in 18 minutes. Thomas Vanek played exactly 24 minutes -- a career-high in regulation -- but had just two shots. Pominville had just two in 17:51.
"[Gaustad's] line had good energy," Ruff said. "We had one that was OK [Tyler Ennis, Jochen Hecht and Drew Stafford combined for 12 shots] and one [the Connolly line] that didn't get much done all night. That put us in a tough spot."
Flyers 5, Sabres 2
Slap shots: Flyers overcome 2-0 first-period deficit, score three in third. ... Briere burns old team with four points, including the tying goal ... McCormick tallies goal and assist for Sabres.
Fast fact: The Sabres are just 3-12-3 this year against teams currently in the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
Next game: Thursday vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m in HSBC Arena