PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 05: Scott Hartnell #19 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal with Claude Giroux #28 during their game against the Chicago Blackhawks on January 5, 2012 at The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The 7-2 victory was a big boost for the confidence of a struggling Philadelphia club that has been ravaged by injuries and the flu.
Wayne Simmonds and Maxime Talbot each scored two goals, Scott Hartnell picked up a goal and four points, and Claude Giroux added five helpers as the Philadelphia Flyers overcame an awful first period to drill the Buffalo Sabres 7-2 Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was a horrid start for Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and his teammates, as the club basically slept through the first 20 minutes. Buffalo outshot the Flyers 12-11 and held a 2-0 lead on goals by Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek.
Pominville's marker came just 5:15 into the contest when defenseman Tyler Myers ventured into the offensive right wing corner and found the Sabres' captain all alone to the right of Bryzgalov, and Pominville banged it home for his 22nd goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
Buffalo doubled its lead a little over four minutes later when Vanek entered the zone and drilled a slap shot on net that Bryzgalov misplayed. The goal was Vanek's 21st of the year and gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead after the first frame.
No one would confess as to what was said in the Philadelphia locker room in between the first and second periods, but the difference in play from the beginning of the middle stanza was noticeable.
"We talked about things that didn't go right, which was pretty much everything," Talbot said after the game. "We talked and these are the things that bring us together. We answered back, which is huge. We could have shut it down, but the guys answered back and that shows a lot of character."
That's when Simmonds went to work, scoring a pair of power play goals to give him his first career 20-goal season. Simmonds, who was wearing a full face shield after getting dinged in the chin area during the pre-game skate, didn't appear to have the usual difficulties of seeing the puck in his skates, as both goals were rebounds that were dug out of his feet and put home past Enroth to give Philly a 3-2 lead. Hartnell and Giroux assisted on the two Simmonds' tallies.
"I thought when he got back in the first period, I didn't like a lot of what we were doing, but I didn't mind him and that's coming right from the table and having your mouth numb like that and teeth knocked around and everything else," said head coach Peter Laviolette about Simmonds. "He was ready from the start."
"I didn't see it in the warmups," he said of the Simmonds pre-game mishap. "I just saw him coming into the room with Jimmy (trainer McCrossin) and he was hurting pretty bad. He's a character guy and, you saw, he came out there and did what he does best. In front of the net nobody can move him."
Before the period was done, rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson greeted net-minder Ryan Miller, who replaced Enroth after the third Flyer goal, with his first career NHL goal, beating Miller top shelf 13:48 into the second period to send the teams to the locker room with a 4-2 Philadelphia lead.
The Flyers poured it on in the third, scoring three more times on goals by Talbot (second of the night and career-high 16th of the season), Jakub Voracek (10th of the year), and Hartnell (team-leading 27th) to win it going away.
It was a big win for a struggling Philadelphia club that has been ravaged by injuries and the flu. In addition to the many Flyers already out of the lineup long-term, right winger Jaromir Jagr missed the game due to illness, and defenseman Andrej Meszaros was a scratch because of an upper-body injury. Philly also lost forwards Danny Briere (upper-body injury) and Tom Sestito (lower-body injury) during the contest and they did not return.
Philadelphia is now eight points behind the Atlantic Division -- and East-leading -- New York Rangers (79 points).
With the five assists, Giroux is now just one assist behind Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks for the NHL lead. He's also just two points behind Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin's total of 69 points for the League scoring lead. Giroux's five-assist game was a career high and he became the first Flyer to have that many since defenseman Alexandre Picard on Feb. 1, 2007.
Bryzgalov stopped 27 of the Sabres' 29 shots in winning his 20th game of the year, improving his record to 20-11-6.
"We need the points," Bryzgalov said following the victory. "Everybody stepped up and did their own job. Everybody knows their own role and it all depends on how we execute."
For Buffalo, it was the third consecutive loss as the team attempts to stay out of the Eastern Conference basement. They are currently tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning with 54 points, just one ahead of the last-place Carolina Hurricanes.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff made no bones about what he saw wrong with his team's performance and how it shifted the outcome of the game.
"You can look at four or five of the goals, and it's just our defenseman coverage. You know the point shot, if Tyler Myers boxes out Talbot, there's no goal. The rebound opportunities and on the power play, same thing."
Enroth stopped 15 of 18 shots and took the loss, dropping him to 8-10-3 for the year. Miller didn't fare much better, allowing four Flyers' goals on just 17 shots in relief of Enroth.