No Wayne Simmonds. No letdown by the Flyers.
One night after the popular right winger was traded to Nashville, the Flyers continued their impressive play, whipping Buffalo, 5-2, at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.
Brian Elliott made 34 saves and five different players scored goals as the Flyers improved to 14-3-1 in their last 18 games. They moved one point ahead of Buffalo, but remained seven points behind in the playoff race with 19 games left.
Wins by Carolina, Montreal and Pittsburgh didn’t help the Flyers’ playoff cause.
“That was a big win for us, coming off Saturday night, with the kind of spectacle of the game,” Elliott said, referring to the 4-3 Stadium Series victory over Pittsburgh at Lincoln Financial Field. “We knew this game was just as important, and we came out and scored a couple quick ones and I think that set the tone and we went from there."
Defenseman Travis Sanheim joined the rush, took a feed from Sean Couturier and scored from the slot 46 seconds into the third period, increasing the Flyers’ lead to 4-2.
With 2:55 left, Claude Giroux (two points) secured the win with an empty-net goal.
It was the Flyers’ first game without Simmonds on their roster since the 2010-11 season.
“He meant so much to this team,” Elliott said. “Even coming out [of the locker room] , he’s the one who counts us down before you go out for each period. When you don’t have that voice, someone’s got to pick it up. It’s a weird feeling.”
Added Elliott: “When you lose a guy, everybody’s got to pick up what’s left behind, and we did a great job of scoring those in-tight goals tonight like we did. That’s kind of Simmer’s territory, so guys stepped in and did the job.”
In the opening period, goals by Oskar Lindblom and Jake Voracek gave the Flyers an early lead, but Jack Eichel’s power-play tally cut the deficit to 2-1.
Shortly after an ineffective power play, an all-alone Lindblom scored from the right side of the net with 17:12 left in the first. It was the rookie left winger’s 12th goal and fourth in the last five games.
About five minutes later, a relentless Voracek (seven shots) scored on his second rebound, putting the Flyers ahead, 2-0.
With 7:52 remaining in the first, Eichel cut the deficit to 2-1, beating Elliott from the left circle while Scott Laughton was in the penalty box for hooking.
The first period included two jarring hits by newly acquired Ryan Hartman (6 foot, 181 pounds), who sent Dahlin (6-2, 190) and Jake McCabe (6-1, 206) to the ice with checks.
“I felt great. Just trying to get the nerves out a little,” said Hartman, who had two good scoring chances turned aside by Carter Hutton in the first half of the game.
“I don’t know if he surprises guys or what he does, but he’s obviously really strong on his skates,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said.
Van Riemsdyk, scoring his fourth goal in the last seven games, increased the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 with 4:47 left in the second period, redirecting Robert Hagg’s point drive past Hutton.
Buffalo got to within 3-2 as Casey Mittelstadt finished a two-on-one with 2:07 remaining in the second. But Sanheim’s sixth goal of the season gave the Flyers some breathing room.
The Flyers used the same jerseys they wore in Saturday’s thrilling overtime win over Pittsburgh. They scored three goals, two with Elliott pulled for an extra skater, in the final 5:03.
This time, they didn’t need an epic comeback as they improved to 30-26-7, including an 18-11-3 record since Scott Gordon became the interim coach.
The Flyers outshot the Sabres, 45-36, and Elliott — who recently returned from an injury that sidelined him for three-plus months -- won consecutive starts for the first time since Oct. 30 and Nov. 1.
“He’s been the consummate professional through this whole year,” van Riemsdyk said. “It can’t be easy ... to deal with injuries. He’s a good pro and he works at it and has a good mindset, and I think that allows him to have consistent success and be ready to when his number is called.”