Faltering Flyers fall to Sabres

Buffalo's Jason Pominville puts the puck past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for the game-winner.
Buffalo's Jason Pominville puts the puck past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for the game-winner.
Posted: March 06, 2011

The Flyers are learning what it's like to live in a penthouse while their neighbors look up at them in envy.

It can be a bit uncomfortable.

For the third consecutive game Saturday, the Flyers, perched atop the Eastern Conference, played a team that is sweating and straining for every point just to make it into the postseason. And for the third straight game, the Flyers failed to match the emotional level of the desperate skaters. The result was a 5-3 loss to Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center.

The defeat marked the first time the Flyers have lost three games in succession in regulation since mid-October. It's possible they've become victims of human nature and have let down their guard, or perhaps they simply are up against the realities of a long season and hitting an inevitable dead spot.

Whatever, coach Peter Laviolette made it clear he doesn't plan to let this modest slide develop into something more problematic.

"We have had a good season for 55, 57 games," Laviolette said through clenched teeth. "Wins have come our way. The bounces, the breaks, everything's come our way. We've hit a patch here where things have not come as easily for us.

"There's a belief in there that we're going to be successful every night, and we will continue down that road and work and push to win hockey games. Some nights it's not going to be as easy, and some nights you won't get the breaks and the bounces. There are definitely things we could have done better. But this team got to this point with a certain recipe, a certain identity on how they played the game. We've got to continue to work at that and get back to that, and wins will start to come our way.

"I promise you this: Wins will start to come our way."

It appeared a win was going the Flyers' way when they took a 2-0 lead into the second period on a power-play goal by Kris Versteeg and a nifty move by James van Riemsdyk, who beat goalie Ryan Miller with a backhander from in close after powering through a defender.

The power play goal ended an 0-for-14 drought with the man advantage. The Flyers turned the first period their way after killing off the Sabres' two-man advantage.

But the wheels quickly fell off in the second period. The Sabres scored three goals in 3 minutes, 40 seconds before Kimmo Timonen tied it with a shorthanded goal, putting the outcome up for grabs in the third period.

Laviolette suggested the Flyers got away from physical play in the second period and were looking for easier ways to ratchet up an offense that's been struggling.

"I think at the end of the second period I was a little disappointed with our physical play," the coach said. "It seemed like there were a lot of one-on-one battles, and we were trying to poke it and look for some offense. It's unacceptable. The month of March is a month when we've got to push in practice and in games. The way to turn things is to keep on pushing, and we will."

But the Flyers blew coverage during a line change, and Jason Pominville redirected a perfect pass from Thomas Vanek past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for a 4-3 lead.

The Flyers, who pumped 36 shots at Miller, had chances to tie it but instead continued their third-period futility. They have been outscored, 12-3, in the third period in the last seven games, excluding empty-netters. Nathan Gerbe sealed the win for the Sabres with an empty-net goal with 1:04 to go.

Once again, desperation proved to be a scary opponent for the Flyers, and it will continue that way until they realize that being in first place in March doesn't mean they can cruise.

"It's hard," Timonen said. "These teams have to win every game to make the playoffs, and obviously we're already in. That shouldn't matter to us. We shouldn't worry about who we're playing. We should win these games."

But Timonen said the Flyers have yet to reach the point where they should call emergency for help.

"You're going to get these bumps along the road somewhere throughout the season, and we really haven't had one yet," he said. "So this is ours, and the guys in the locker room can fight back and get over it."


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

 

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