The Flyers are happy to say goodbye to March. Very happy.
They chased games all month, getting outscored by a ridiculous 27-9 first-period margin in 17 March games.
They fell into an early two-goal hole Wednesday en route to a 6-1 loss to Buffalo that probably is the low point in their uneven season, though there are plenty of other worthy candidates.
The worst-in-the-NHL Sabres ended an 18-game losing streak (0-15-3), notching their first win since a 4-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 23.
“Everybody needs to bring their ‘A’ game every night, and it seems we have some guys on and some guys off,” Flyers center Sean Couturier said. “It’s tough to win that way. As professionals, you have to find your game every night. It’s tough to win when you have some guys off. Matchup-wise, it’s tough.”
The Flyers finished with a 6-10-1 record in March, during which they allowed 75 goals (4.4 per game), the most in any month in franchise history. The month included 9-0 and 8-3 losses to the Rangers, and a 6-1 defeat to the Islanders.
At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if 20-year-old defenseman Cam York, who signed an entry-level deal Wednesday with the Flyers, made his NHL debut sometime this season. Hey, something needs to change. (After the game, coach Alain Vigneault said York would start with the AHL’s Phantoms.)
The Flyers remained three points behind Boston for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division; the Bruins have three games in hand, and the teams meet three times next week.
“We haven’t been the same since our COVID stoppage,” Vigneault said. “We get a couple days to regroup now. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played.”
Added Vigneault: “I really feel for our group tonight. I know our guys were ready. They were focused. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good night for our group.”
Defenseman Brandon Montour had two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill -- one into an empty net after the Flyers pulled their goalie -- for the Sabres.
Sam Reinhart and Curtis Lazar scored 2:27 apart to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead before the game was 12 minutes old.
Reinhart’s wide shot deflected off defenseman Justin Braun’s leg and past goalie Brian Elliott. He has five of his 13 goals this season against the defensive-challenged Flyers.
An all-alone Lazar, the trailer on the play, took a pass from Riley Sheahan and put a shot through Elliott’s legs to make it 2-0 with 8:01 to go in the first. The play started when Sheahan blocked Braun’s shot down the other end, and headed down ice ahead of the pack before making a spinning backpass to Lazar as the Flyers did a poor job of backchecking.
“We just have to do a better job in front of our goalies,” said Braun, who was minus-3 on the night.
Two nights earlier, the Flyers overcame a 3-0 third-period deficit and jolted the Sabres in overtime, 4-3. In short, it was an ugly win.
“Hopefully, it’s a little bit of a wake-up call,” Elliott said before Wednesday’s matchup, adding that the Flyers “threw our sticks on the ice and maybe thought it was going to be easier.”
The Flyers played better in the first period Wednesday than Monday, but defensive breakdowns and some bad luck contributed to their 2-0 deficit: Couturier hit the post 10 seconds into the game, and one of Buffalo’s goals was going wide before it deflected off Braun.
But the Flyers got some luck of their own early in the second period as Ivan Provorov’s point drive deflected off the backside of Buffalo defenseman Montour and into the net, cutting the deficit to 2-1 with 16:10 remaining in the stanza. Couturier set up the goal, giving him points in five straight games.
The Flyers, who were aiming for their first three-game winning streak since late February, had the first 11 shots in the second period, but goalie Linus Ullmark stood tall, except for the fluke goal.
Buffalo, capitalizing on loose defensive play (sound familiar?), then scored two goals from in tight to chase Elliott and make it 4-1 with 4:21 remaining in the second. Alex Lyon replaced Elliott and made his first NHL appearance of the season.
Steven Fogarty, 27, scored from the doorstep -- Erik Gustafsson and Connor Bunnaman failed to move him out of harm’s way -- for the first NHL goal of his 22-game career. Casey Mittelstadt, who was wide-open, then scored from deep inside the right circle to increase the lead to 4-1.
The Sabres, despite some key injuries, were on their way to ending the 14th-longest winless streak in NHL history.