PHILADELPHIA — Don't look for some glowing report about offense here. Wasn't any on the ice either.
What did #OneBuffalo stand for Sunday? Few dents on the scoreboard, no chance to win.
The Buffalo Sabres were held under two goals for the 14th time this season in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers before 19,662 in Wells Fargo Center. And it wasn't like the Sabres were without opportunities.
They had a 31-29 edge in shots on goal and had plenty of decent chances but Flyers goalie and former tank-era Sabres netminder Michal Neuvirth was up to the task.
The Sabres had a strong first period, posting a 12-5 advantage in shots on goal in the scoreless frame. Ryan O'Reilly's power-play goal at 1:50 of the second period put Buffalo in front but the Sabres gave up two goals in the next six minutes to fall behind for good. The Flyers put the game away with a pair of empty-net goals.
"I think we had a solid first," said goalie Robin Lehner, who was sharp with 25 saves on 27 shots. "We kept getting pucks deep, grinded away and we got opportunities. Then after we scored that goal, I don't know. Seemed like everything changed."
"Obviously they came back with a heavy push and we got away from what we needed to do," O'Reilly said. "Again, it's the consistency. We didn't have the full 60 and it was tough to get momentum back after that."
A good start and a first goal are pretty rare for the Sabres these days. They're just 10-23-9 one game into the second half of the season and have only scored first three times in the last 11 games. The oddball part of that stat: All three are goals by O'Reilly in games against Philadelphia, and the Sabres ended up dropping two of the three.
O'Reilly's goal, his 10th of the season, came on a laser from the left circle after a nice touch pass from Jack Eichel. The slapshot beat Neuvirth high over the shoulder.
"It was a great play by Jack," O'Reilly said. "I saw I had time and I got the puck to the area. Just tried to get it up quick."
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 7, 2018
The lead was short-lived. Evan Rodrigues turned over a puck in the neutral zone and Jake McCabe was caught up ice on Shayne Gostisbehere's goal that tied the game and Sean Couturier scored the first of his two goals to give the Flyers the lead, 2-1, at 7:17 of the second.
"We just changed the way we were playing for some reason," said coach Phil Housley. "A lot of East-West plays, turnovers. Puck management that was uncharacteristic from what we were doing in the first period."
The Flyers took two penalties in the first four minutes, something the Sabres are pretty proficient at, and Buffalo got the game's first six shots on goal. There were no goals — Neuvirth flat-out robbed Sam Reinhart with a glove save — but Buffalo completely built early momentum and kept it the entire 20 minutes.
Pure robbery by Neuvirth! pic.twitter.com/3dqF6N6UYd
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 7, 2018
"In the past games we've been taking that first penalty early and it gives the other team momentum," Housley said. "I thought we had some really good shots, good looks (Reinhart). We built off that. In the second period, we get the power-play goal, then we got away from it. We wanted to make plays instead of doing the right things and make the right choices."
So after seven games out of Buffalo in which they went just 1-4-2 the Sabres finally get to return home. Now, it's not like that's any sort of panacea since the team has exactly split its meager 10 wins between home (5-10-3) and road (5-13-6). Still, the Sabres have 15 losses by one goal and seven others where the margin was one until an empty-net goal.
"We need to regroup. It's the second half of the season and that's not the way we want to start it," O'Reilly said. "We have to regroup and we have to get better in practice because these games are there for us."