The Buffalo Sabres took a while to get out of the gate in their season debut Sunday, but once they did they put on quite the show in humbling the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2.
Buffalo took nine minutes to register its first shot on goal and actually trailed early in the second period. But the Sabres scored four goals in the final 25 minutes to pull away, with Thomas Vanek having a hand in every goal that was scored. The Sabres also showed some of the toughness fans had hoped for coming off a 2011-12 season during which Buffalo had been sharply criticized for its lack of physicality.
The main newcomer brought in to toughen up the Sabres, Steve Ott, actually scored the first goal of the season 11 minutes in. His power play tally was the first of three on the afternoon for the Sabres, who were 16th in the NHL last season with a 17.1 power play percentage. Despite the slow start, the Sabres outshot the Flyers in the first 13-7, skating circles around the fatigued Flyers – who also played Saturday – but failing to lengthen the lead.
The Flyers made them pay in the second, getting goals from Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux to give Philly a 2-1 lead five minutes in. But the Sabres were able to tie it up 10 minutes later, with Vanek contributing a power play goal of his own. Then three minutes later, after the Flyers' Scott Hartnell boarded a Sabres player from behind, the relatively diminutive Drew Stafford challenged him, and the two drew fighting majors.
"Everyone in this lineup is trying to hold each other accountable to be harder to play against, and that falls into that category," Stafford said.
The Sabres seemingly picked up momentum from Stafford's act in the third period, peppering Philly goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with 15 shots while never letting the Flyers make a serious run at claiming the win. The Sabres' relentless pressure made the Flyers crack late, as Buffalo got goals from Tyler Myers, Cody Hodgson and Vanek in the game's final five minutes to claim the victory.
Ryan Miller made 27 saves to get the win. Jason Pominville had three assists.
One game isn't enough of a sample to draw conclusions from, but Buffalo did impress by overcoming a deficit – something rarely done last season – and by basically outclassing one of its longtime nemeses. But the Sabres will have little time to think about the victory, as they take the bus north to take on the Maple Leafs on Monday night.
"We have about maybe five or 10 minutes to think about this one and then we’ve got to get ready for Toronto," Stafford said. "Can’t get too high. Can’t get too low. It’s a great start, but we got another one tomorrow."
Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL
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