Flyers continue dramatic reversal, nip Sabres for 5th straight win
Rookie Travis Sanheim scored his first NHL goal to tie it. Val Filppula's goal ended up winning it.
Call them Team Yo-Yo.
With their tight-checking 2-1 win Thursday night over Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers are the NHL's most up-and-down team in the last 12 years.
They became the first team to register five straight wins immediately after losing 10 consecutive games since San Jose in 2005.
Val Filppula scored the game-winner as the Flyers overcame an early gift goal and went to 2-0 on a five-game homestand that continues Saturday night against Dallas.
If they sweep the last three games in the homestand — after facing the Stars, they host Los Angeles and Detroit — they would become the first team in NHL history to win eight in a row right after it lost 10 straight, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Toronto's 1966-67 team has the "record" — seven consecutive wins following an 11-game winless streak.
The Flyers' latest victory was far from artistic. Passes went astray and there was little flow to the team's offense.
But they survived and, for the moment, moved to within two points of a wild-card spot.
"To be honest, I don't think we played good tonight, but we found a way to win, which is really important," said right winger Jake Voracek, who set up the winning score.
"There have been games where we played better than tonight, but we still lost," left winger Michael Raffl said. "…So this is a huge step for us. That was a war out there, and especially the last period."
Goalie Brian Elliott shook off a shaky first period and finished with 19 saves.
"I thought Moose was standing on his head again," Raffl said, referring to Elliott by his nickname. "He's given us a chance to win in every single hockey game."
Elliott made a point-blank save on the ever-present Evander Kane to keep the Flyers ahead, 2-1, with 15:13 left in regulation. With 7:40 to go, he made a difficult stop on Jordan Nolan from the right circle.
Filppula flipped a shot high into the corner of the net to finish off a great passing play with Voracek and Raffl, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead with 2:33 to go in the second period.
From in front of the net, Filppula converted a feed from Voracek, who collected his 31st assist, tops in the NHL pending Thursday's results.
"There wasn't a lot of room out there," Filppula said after scoring his eighth goal of the season, "…so it was good to get ahead before the third."
During their winning streak, the Flyers have outscored opponents in the third period, 7-1. Another key: They have allowed only one or two power plays (one on Thursday) in each of their five victories.
Earlier, rookie Travis Sanheim's first NHL goal enabled the Flyers to tie the score at 1-1 with 15:58 left in the opening period. The 6-foot-4 defenseman whipped a left-circle one-timer past Robin Lehner after taking a goal-line pass from Dale Weise.
"It feels great," said Sanheim, 21, who thought the first period, besides his goal, was probably his worst of the season. "Obviously it was a big goal in the game and I'm just excited to finally get the first one. Weiser was coming behind the net and I saw my winger kind of cheat to the wall and I had a seam down the middle."
Said Weise: "I couldn't be happier for him. He's been wanting one for a long time and I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Sanheim's goal highlighted a first period that included numerous Flyers turnovers, including two by Elliott. The goalie's first miscue led to Ryan O'Reilly's first goal in 13 games.
From behind his net, Elliott's clearing attempt was taken away by Zemgus Girgensons, who fed O'Reilly in front for a tap-in into the open net just 1:29 into the game.
"A little miscommunication and a bad play on my part," Elliott said. "We did a heck of a job coming back and tying it up because that could go sideways in a hurry."
A little over two minutes later, Elliott almost gave away another goal as Sam Reinhart intercepted his clearing attempt and was inches away from scoring on a wraparound. At the last instant, however, a hustling Nolan Patrick saved the goal as he blocked the puck with his left skate.
The Flyers then went down the ice and Sanheim scored the equalizer.
Elliott made a key point-blank save on Kane after he got ahead of the pack on a shorthanded chance with 17:06 left in the second.