5 Observations: Sabres fall to Flyers 4-3 in SO

5 Observations: Sabres fall to Flyers 4-3 in SO
Posted at 12:18 AM, Oct 26, 2016

In the second period, the Buffalo Sabres looked the best they’ve looked all season. Then they imploded late in the third, allowing two late Philadelphia Flyers goals to tie the game at three and send the game to overtime. After five minutes of scoreless (and incredibly boring) 3-on-3 hockey, the game went to a shootout. The Sabres eventually lost to the Flyers 4-3. Five observations from Tuesday’s loss:

He’s backkkkkkk

Matt Moulson scored two goals in the second period – the first time he’s had two goals in the same game since 2014. Moulson now has four goals in five games and looks like he did back in 2012 when he had 69 points with the New York Islanders. It’s still early, so temper your expectations, but this start is massively important for both the Sabres and Moulson. The 32-year-old winger hasn’t said much about his hot start, but human nature makes you believe he’s playing more confidently than perhaps any time last season. With Sam Reinhart moving to the second line, Moulson is bumped up to the Sabres' top line with Kyle Okposo and Ryan O’Reilly. Moulson hasn’t played regularly with such high quality players since he was paired with John Tavares in New York. Every goal Moulson has scored has been on the power play and eventually he’ll need to contribute at even strength. If Moulson can score 20 goals this season, the Sabres and their fans should be thrilled. He’s currently on pace for 66 goals – so hey, you never know.

Nilsson looks sharp

In his first start of the season, Nilsson looked great in the first period-- single-handedly keeping the Sabres in the game, stopping all 11 Flyers shots. His most impressive save came on a partial breakaway, denying Flyers forward Matt Read, who tried wrapping it around Nilsson’s pad. Nilsson stopped all eight shots he faced in the second period, but was never really challenged. Then, things changed when the third period began.

The Flyers eventually beat Nilsson on the power play a few minutes into the third on a Travis Konecny deflection. There wasn’t much the Sabres goaltender could do after the puck was perfectly redirected top-shelf. Philadelphia’s second goal came with three minutes left in the third period on a gorgeous Brayden Schenn one-timer, also on the power play.

Just one minute and five seconds later the Flyers tied the game with a goal by Mark Streit, yet again on the power play. Nilsson made two huge saves while the puck sat in front of the net, but couldn’t keep it out while Streit whacked away.

In the shootout, Nilsson was beaten by Giroux and Voracek, the Flyers' two best forwards.
Overall, I think Nilsson actually looked pretty good – he did make 38 saves – but it wasn’t enough. Late in the game, Nilsson made some fantastic saves to keep the Sabres in the lead, until they got in penalty trouble. When watching the Flyers' goals over again, there are none where I think “man, Nilsson should have had that one”.

Sabres have best period of the season

The Sabres' second period Tuesday against the Flyers was their best period of the season. They dominated play, converted on chances and didn’t let the Flyers build any momentum. It was just what the doctor ordered after a disappointing game in Vancouver last Thursday night. Thirty seconds into the period, Ryan O’Reilly missed a golden opportunity with a wide open net, something we rarely see. Ultimately, it didn’t matter, because Tyler Ennis was able to redirect a Zemgus Girgensons shot past Michael Neuvirth less than two minutes later. Two minutes after that, Matt Moulson scored his first of the night, camped in front of the net on the power play. The Sabres added their third and final goal of the night on yet another Matt Moulson power play goal, with Moulson camped in front of the net.

Then they had their worst period

Entering the third period, things were looking good for the Sabres. They played fantastically in the second and were twenty minutes away from earning their first road regulation win in Philadelphia since 2011. Then, everything imploded and things got ugly. In the third period, the Sabres were outshot 19 to 5 and were dominated, essentially a complete role reversal of what happened in the second. That can’t happen when going up against a team that played the night before. Nilsson, like he did in the first, was able to bail the Sabres out until the very end. Then, the Sabres took two penalties in the final four minutes. With three minutes left the Sabres were up 3-1. With two minutes left the game was tied at three.

Late penalties gave Flyers life

This would have been a different outcome if it wasn’t for a Dmitry Kulikov charging penalty and Sam Reinhart high-sticking penalty. The Kulikov penalty came with 3:20 left in the period, on a play that was completely unnecessary. It was called a charge. I believe the hit was questionable because it was a little high. Obviously, Kulikov is looking to finish his check and make a big open ice hit, but in that situation you have to play cautiously and not take a penalty. Then, after the Flyers pulled within one on the power play from Kulikov’s penalty, Sam Reinhart took a high sticking penalty. This one is tough because Reinhart is trying to regain control during a battle, but couldn’t control his stick as it flew into the air. Sure, you can say the same about Reinhart’s penalty as Kulikov – but his seemed like more of a tough break than Kulikov’s hit.

Buffalo takes on the Minnesota Wild Thursday October 27 at KeyBank Center. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. 

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