The Flyers pledged that they would not look past the lowly Sabres.
Never mind that they were playing their third game in four nights or that they’ve spent a ton of energy putting together an extended winning streak. They were not going to get caught looking ahead, not going to get caught flat-footed.
They may have been sloppy Saturday night, but they were also victorious. Again.
Claude Giroux scored two gorgeous goals and Carter Hart continued his dominance at home with 38 saves as the Flyers did enough to beat the Sabres, 3-1, for their ninth win a row.
“Sometimes you have those games,” said Jake Voracek, who had a pair of assists. “Sometimes you don’t play your best and you win. Sometimes you play your best and you lose. It’s just the way it is.”
“Right now, everything we touch is working.”
Just about everything Hart touched, he stopped. The young goalie won his seventh consecutive start, and is 9-1 with a .934 save percentage since coming back from an abdominal strain that cost him three weeks.
“Our goaltender tonight was the best player on the ice,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “Our goaltender had his best stuff and the other 18 guys were OK.”
The Flyers slogged through the first half of the game until Giroux took a pass off his skates and backhanded a shot past Carter Hutton.
It was 1-1 entering the third period when Giroux vowed the Flyers were not going to fall to a Sabres team that had lost five in a row.
“We are not playing good hockey right now," the captain said after the second period. "We aren’t playing our style, we aren’t hard enough on pucks. We’re going to start doing that in the third period here.”
The Flyers didn’t dominate the third period, but they did score the only two goals of the frame.
“This happens on good teams,” said Vigneault, who is 10th all-time in coaching wins with 689. “They find ways to win, and on a lot of nights when they do win, it’s the goaltender that made the difference.”
Voracek set up both of Giroux’s goals, giving him 10 apples in the last five games. His second was a pass that Giroux batted out of the air just inches off the ice.
Hart stopped 15 shots in the third period.
In the second, he took one to the jewels, which understandably left him stunned for a few moments. (“Yeah ... that one didn’t feel very good,” he said afterward.)
Three minutes later, Dominik Kahun turned a Travis Sanheim turnover into the Sabres’ only goal. The other Flyers defenders mostly watched as Hart futilely tried to make a diving stop.
That’s probably what annoyed Giroux, who was on the ice for Kahun’s goal, during the second intermission.
“They’re our leaders on this team,” Vigneault said, referring to Giroux and Voracek. “Our players follow their lead by the way they play.”
The win improved Hart to a remarkable 20-2-2 at home this season, tying Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington for most home wins this season.
The Flyers killed off four power plays and Joel Farabee added his first goal since being recalled following James van Riemsdyk’s hand injury.
The Flyers were heavy favorites entering the game but did enough to move back into a virtual tie with Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. They are off until Tuesday, when they will host the conference-leading Bruins. They will play at the Lightning two nights later. They could use the rest.
“Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s easy,” Voracek said. “Today, it was hard. We found a way. We’ve got Boston and Tampa coming up. Two of the best teams. So far, this year, I think we’ve played really good hockey against good teams. So, we’ll see."
This is the seventh time in franchise history the Flyers have won at least nine in a row. The team record is 13 set by the 1985-86 club. ... The Flyers blocked 18 shots against Buffalo, six more than their season average. Phil Myers took a blast off the right leg, and Justin Braun stopped one with his face shield or helmet. Both remained in the game.