BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo coach Phil Housley spent the past few days urging the Sabres to shoot from any angle in a bid to spark the team’s slow-starting offense.
Ryan O’Reilly validated Housley’s message by scoring on a bad-angle shot Friday night, sparking a four-goal third period for Buffalo in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Rather than rue the chances the Sabres missed through 40 minutes, including Evander Kane’s penalty shot 3:42 into the game, the Sabres celebrated winning for just the fourth time in 20 games.
Kane made up for his miss by deflecting in Josh Gorges’ point shot, and Buffalo avoided a late collapse. Jack Eichel sealed the win by scoring two empty-netters in the final 67 seconds.
“Obviously, it was kind of frustrating how many Grade A chances we had,” O’Reilly said. “I wasn’t shooting very well and then I get a chance like that. I was just trying to put it in that upper area and get a good bounce.”
Collecting Kane’s drop pass in the circle, O’Reilly sped into the left corner and snapped a shot that somehow sneaked in behind Brian Elliott, who was hugging the post.
“It sounds simple,” Housley said, referring to how his players followed his shoot-first message. “We easily could’ve got deterred and wilted, but our guys stayed strong mentally.”
Robin Lehner stopped 33 shots. He was working on a shutout before Michael Raffl tipped in Claude Giroux’s point shot to make it 2-1 with 2:10 left.
After Eichel scored his 12th of the season, the Flyers responded with Shayne Gostisberhere’s one-timer from the right circle. But Eichel sealed the win by scoring with 1 second remaining.
Buffalo bounced back from a 3-0 loss to Boston on Tuesday. The Sabres also overcame their own slow-starting offense that has scored an NHL-worst 15 first-period goals.
“That’s a good step forward,” Lehner said. “We didn’t get rewarded after 40, yet we score two and we get two empty-netters. That’s great.”
Elliott finished with 33 saves in his 400th career game. Though Raffl scored on the power play, the Flyers came up empty on their first four opportunities with the man advantage, including 40 seconds of 5-on-3 play early in the third period.
“Brian Elliott gave us a chance after two periods to go out and salvage the game in the third period, but we didn’t do it,” Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol said. “We didn’t make enough plays under pressure tonight whether that was 5 on 5 or on the power play.”
The Flyers lost for just the second time in nine games, and had a three-game road winning streak snapped.
Elliott stopped 28 shots through 40 minutes, including a glove save on Kane’s penalty shot. He also stopped Kane twice and Kyle Okposo from the slot during a Sabres flurry in front 7 1/2 minutes into the second period.
“We can’t expect to win games when we’re playing like that,” Gostisbehere said. “(Elliott) gave us every chance possible to win that game.”
NOTES: Eichel became the first Buffalo player to score two empty-net goals in the same game, according to Elias Sports. … Elliott has now stopped five of 10 penalty shots, including allowing a goal to Ondrej Kase in Anaheim’s 6-2 win over the Flyers on Oct. 24. … Kane has scored just once on seven penalty-shot attempts, missing the last six chances since scoring on his first attempt while with the then-Atlanta Thrashers in a 4-2 win over Washington on Oct. 8, 2010. … With Buffalo hosting the 10-nation World Junior hockey championship starting Tuesday, the Sabres hit the road for their next seven games. That includes Buffalo “hosting” the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic at Citi Field in New York on Jan. 1.
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