It's been a rough year for the Buffalo Sabres and their fans. In the last home game of 2017, they enjoyed a win together.
The Sabres scored four times during the third period Friday, snapping a scoreless tie and pulling out a 4-2 victory over Philadelphia. The Sabres ended a three-game winless skid and improved to 9-19-7 overall and 5-10-2 in KeyBank Center.
Robin Lehner made 33 saves for Buffalo and wasn't beaten until the Flyers made a push in the final 2:10.
The Flyers lost for just the second time in nine games.
Luck of the Irish: The Sabres had fired point-blank chances at goaltender Brian Elliott with no success. Ryan O'Reilly tried something different. It worked.
O'Reilly lofted the puck at Elliott from below the goal line, and it banked in off the netminder. The long-awaited goal gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead with 16:01 remaining.
It was O'Reilly's second goal in 16 games and brought him to nine for the season.
Tips accepted: Evander Kane scored his 15th goal with 8:52 to play, giving Buffalo a 2-0 lead. Kane reached out to redirect Josh Gorges' shot from the point, giving the left winger three goals and 10 points in the last nine games.
Killers finally falter: Buffalo's short-handed unit improved to 4 for 4 in the game and 44 for 47 at home this season by thwarting a five-on-three after O'Reilly scored.
But Rasmus Ristolainen went to the penalty box for closing his hand on the puck with 3:58 to play, and the Flyers finally made Buffalo pay. Michael Raffl set up shop in front and tipped Claude Giroux's point shot with 2:10 to play, pulling the Flyers within 2-1.
Empty net times two: Jack Eichel scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season into an empty net. He made it 3-1 with 1:07 to play and 4-2 with 0.6 seconds to go.
Denied: The officials awarded a penalty shot to Kane just 3:42 into the game. After the Flyers turned the puck over, Kane took off on a breakaway. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere slid on the ice and knocked Kane down from behind, and the official quickly pointed to center ice for the penalty shot.
Elliott was up to the challenge, making a glove save as Kane skated down the right side.
— NHL (@NHL) December 23, 2017
Kane fell to 1 for 7 in his career on penalty shots. He scored in his first attempt for Atlanta on Oct. 8, 2010, but he has been stopped in six straight.
Kane is 0 for 3 in Buffalo after being denied by the Sabres twice. He was stopped by Ryan Miller while playing for Atlanta on March 19, 2011. Jhonas Enroth stopped Kane while he played for Winnipeg on April 22, 2013.
Scoreless first: The Sabres outshot the Flyers, 16-11, during the opening period. Neither team found the net.
Scoreless second: The Sabres outshot the Flyers, 12-10, during the second period. Neither team found the net.
Elliot had a spectacular sequence to keep Buffalo off the board with seven minutes gone. In a span of eight seconds, the goalie made point-blank saves on Ryan O'Reilly, Kane, Kyle Okposo and Kane again.
Elliott had 28 saves through 40 minutes, while Lehner made 21 stops.
Controlling the puck: During five-on-five play in the second period, the Sabres had the puck in the Flyers' zone for 5:02. Philadelphia had the puck in Buffalo's zone for 1:49.
Changes: Sabres coach Phil Housley changed all four lines. Jack Eichel skated between left wing Zemgus Girgensons and right wing Reinhart. O'Reilly centered for Kane and Okposo. Jacob Josefson was in the middle of Benoit Pouliot and Jason Pominville. Johan Larsson centered for Scott Wilson and Jordan Nolan.
Evan Rodrigues was the healthy scratch after recording two goals and three points in seven games.
Gorges, scratched in the previous two games, replaced Victor Antipin on defense and skated with Nathan Beaulieu. Justin Falk was also scratched.
Counting the house: The Sabres announced 18,222 tickets sold. The crowd included members of the Buffalo Beauts, the National Women's Hockey League team purchased by Terry and Kim Pegula this week, and executives from the International Ice Hockey Federation as they prepare for the world junior championships in Buffalo.
Next: The Sabres boarded their charter following the game for a trip to Carolina. They visit the Hurricanes on Saturday and then take a three-day Christmas break.