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Tuch’s Hat Trick, 2nd Period Effort Prove Costly as Flyers Fall 6-3 to Sabres

(Chris Szagola/Associated Press)

The Philadelphia Flyers’ point streak ended at 7 games after falling 6-3 to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Flyers looked dominant in the first 19:50 of the game but the wheels fell off when Kyle Okposo tied the game with only 10 seconds left in the period after Morgan Frost had taken the lead just a few minutes prior.

That momentum boost allowed the Sabres to score 3 goals in the first 3:46 of the second period – making that 4 goals in 3:56 – and essentially kept the Flyers at bay from that moment on.

Alex Tuch’s second goal of the game gave them a late 5-1 lead before Frost’s 2nd goal of the game cut the deficit back to 3. Travis Konecny scored in his return to cut Buffalo’s lead back to 2, and Owen Tippett then had a glorious opportunity to bring them within one, but Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made the save of the game, keeping the puck on the line with an outstretched pad save midway through the third.

Alex Tuch then completed his hat trick with a shorthanded beauty, collecting 2 very important points for Buffalo in a tight playoff race. Luukkonen made 38 saves – including 25 in the final 2 frames – for his 17th win of the season, and Felix Sandström allowed 6 goals on 29 shots as the Flyers’ erratic second period proved rather costly. Frost continued his torrid run with his 7th goal and 12th point in his last 12 games as he reached the 40-point milestone for the first time in his career.

Looking to extend their point streak to 8 games, the Philadelphia Flyers returned to the Wells Fargo Center after a pit stop in Ottawa, to face off against the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers had just ended their 7-game homestand going 5-1-1 – including a 5-2 victory over the very same Buffalo Sabres on March 17th – and they earned a point in Ottawa in a game where they were outshot 46-11. Down 4-1 early in the third period, the Flyers scored 3 unanswered goals to send the game into overtime but lost another 3-on-3 competition.

John Tortorella returned into the press box – Daniel Brière was not at the game tonight – as Brad Shaw reenacted his managing duties behind the bench.

The big news earlier today was the activation of Travis Konecny from IR after being sidelined with an upper-body injury since the 20th of February. Even though he missed 16 games, he was still the team’s leading scorer heading into tonight’s action with 27 goals and 54 points in just 52 games. Kieffer Bellows and Tanner Laczynski made their way out of the lineup for Konecny and Justin Braun. Felix Sandström earned his 3rd consecutive start with Carter Hart still on the mend with a lower-body injury.

Joel Farabee, Owen Tippett, and Morgan Frost started the game. Noah Cates, Travis Konecny, and Scott Laughton represented the second line. Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, and Wade Allison reformed the third line, and Nicolas Deslauriers was a roamer with Brendan Lemieux.

As for the Buffalo Sabres, they defeated the New York Rangers last night in overtime in Devon Levi’s NHL debut. The Sabres entered the confines of the Wells Fargo Center having won 3 of their last 4 games and having recorded a point in 4 straight.

The playoffs are a pipe dream of sorts but they held 2 games in hand on both Pittsburgh and Florida and trailed both teams by 5 and 4 points, respectively, entering tonight. This game against the Flyers was extremely important for a variety of reasons, including an avoidance of a season-series sweep.

Tage Thompson was ruled out with an upper-body injury but still paces the club with 44 goal and 89 points. Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch each had 32 goals and a combined 140 points to complete their lethal top line. Rasmus Dahlin had 14 goals and 66 points, Dylan Cozens right behind with 62 points, and J.J. Peterka entered this game with 10 points in his last 10 games.

Craig Anderson, who played in both prior games against the Flyers this season, was out with an upper-body injury, which made way for Levi’s debut yesterday and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s start tonight.


13 minutes into the game and the Philadelphia Flyers were controlling the pace of the game, which was a welcoming sign after their game in Ottawa. They held a 10-4 shot advantage that was culminated by a great forechecking play from Wade Allison to set himself up for a breakaway, but his shot went just wide.

With 3:25 left in the period, Morgan Frost continued his torrid run by collecting his 17th goal of the season to get the Flyers on the board.

Nick Seeler brought the puck into the zone and after a few strong forechecking players, Brendan Lemieux tied up Dylan Cozens’ stick, which allowed Frost time and space in the slot to roof one over Luukkonen’s glove for his 6th goal and 11th point in his last 12 games.

The goal also represented his 40th point of the season – the first time he’s reached that milestone in his career.

With 10 seconds left in the period, Kyle Okposo tied the game with a shot from the slot on an abbreviated 3-on-1.

Morgan Frost tried a turnaround shot that was blocked by the Sabres and they quickly jettisoned out of the zone and found themselves in a favourable spot as they barreled in on Sandström. Frost tried his best to contain Okposo but the Sabres’ captain outmuscled the Flyers youngster, which turned it into an odd-man rush with Nick Seeler as the last line of defense. It was their first shot in 13:09, but it was labelled for the top corner for Okposo’s 11th of the season.

The Flyers thoroughly dominated the first 19:50, had a 1-0 lead to show for a 14-4 shot advantage but one play was all the Sabres needed as they tied it with 10 seconds left.


1:25 into the second period, the Sabres took their first lead of the game after Alex Tuch ripped one top-shelf for his 33rd of the season. Casey Middlestadt made a great move on Ivan Provorov outside of the blue-line, which gave the Sabres another odd-man rush, and Tuch made no mistake as his hard shot beat Sandström glove-side once more. It was Buffalo’s 2nd goal in the last 1:35 of game time.

1:15 later and with 17:20 left in the second period, the Sabres scored once again after former-Chuck Fletcher-target Jordan Greenway finished off the rebound opportunity right in front of Sandström for his 5th of the season.

The Sabres were working hard, cycling around the zone, before Tyson Jost’s wrap-around attempt was stopped but the rebound was too juicy as Greenway finished it off with ease and scored his 3rd goal in 8 games.

1:06 after that, Jeff Skinner added to the misery of Sandström as he made it 4-1.

Owen Power started the play with a stretch pass to Middlestadt before he found Skinner on the other side of the ice, wide open and unmarked. His initial shot was stopped but he finished his own rebound for his 33rd of the season.

This was Buffalo’s 3rd goal in 3:46 of the second period, 3rd goal in 2:21, and 4th goal in 3:56 going back to Okposo’s late first period tally.

Midway through the second period, the Flyers got their legs back and created 3 consecutive scoring chances, all stopped by Luukkonen. Wade Allison was all alone on the goaltender but he couldn’t fool him with his deke or backhand shot. Then Tony DeAngelo jumped on a loose puck near the faceoff dot after Owen Power lost track of it, but Luukkonen’s big frame kept most of the net covered. Then Owen Tippett made a few fancy moves before he barreled in on the goaltender with both of his shots being stopped by Luukkonen.

Noah Cates was then whistled for a tripping minor, sending the Sabres on their first power play of the game at the 11:19 mark of the period. A hot power play coming into this game, the Sabres threw a few shots towards Sandström but nothing too testy. The Flyers came out of the penalty box with a scoring chance after Konecny came down the wing with Cates opposite him but his shot was stopped. The rebound was there for the taking but no Orange jerseys were either present or had their sticks free.

With 3:58 remaining in the period, Alex Tuch gave the Sabres an unassailable 5-1 lead with his second goal of the period and his 34th of the season.

It was a simple play as he walked into the offensive zone and fired a hard shot high blocker with Travis Sanheim in front of him. The prize of the Jack Eichel trade finished his night with 35 goals and and 72 points in 67 games.

Morgan Frost came right down the gullet 22 seconds later for his 2nd goal of the game and 18th of the season to cut the deficit back to 3.

Sanheim pushed the puck up to Joel Farabee, who was stationed at the blue-line waiting for Frost. He entered the zone with speed before Farabee pushed a pass in front as Frost danced through two defenders before firing a hard shot past Luukkonen.

The Sabres really opened the game up with 4 goals in the second period as they entered the intermission up 5-2. Each team fired 17 shots in the period, with the Flyers holding a 31-21 edge heading into the third period. The Flyers also held a 53-37 shot attempt advantage – to no avail.


2:20 into the third period, Ivan Provorov was nailed down for an offensive zone tripping penalty. The Flyers not only killed it off, but shortly after the kill they used that momentum to cut into the deficit with 14:49 remaining.

Travis Konecny scored directly off an offensive zone faceoff win as he wired a hard shot through a mass of bodies in front of Luukkonen for his 28th of the season.

49 seconds later, Rasmus Dahlin air mailed the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.

Still ranked 32nd in the NHL, the Flyers’ power play entered tonight’s game having gone 5 for their last 15 and almost made it 6 in 16 after Owen Tippett’s wrap-around attempt. Somehow, Luukkonen was able to keep the puck on the line with a pad save, keeping the score at 5-3.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, Alex Tuch was sprung on a breakaway in an attempt for the hat-trick but Sandström was able to make the save, keeping the deficit at an attainable 2 and making sure the Sabres didn’t ice the game with that goal.

With 5:20 left in regulation, Dahlin was nailed with another penalty, this time holding Frost as he came in on Luukkonen with a dangerous scoring chance. The Flyers had a few cracks at the beginning of the power play but Tuch had 2 of the best chances – one of them ending up in the back of the net.

Tuch finally completed his hat trick with 3:27 left after Farabee was stripped off the puck at the blue-line by Jack Quinn. Quinn then fed Tuch with a spin-around pass as he made some fancy moves before going roof on Sandström for the shorthanded tally and 35th of the season.

With 49.7 seconds left, Scott Laughton tried dropping the gloves with Casey Mittelstadt, who had no intentions on fighting the veteran. There was already a delayed penalty on Laughton for a slashing minor and both he and Middlestadt received 10 minute misconducts for their pushing and shoving.

That was all she wrote for this one as the Buffalo Sabres rode a wild wave of 4 goals in a span of 3:56 from the end of the first into the early part of the second period to take 2 very important points against the Philadelphia Flyers in a tight Wild Card race.


The Flyers travel into Western Pennsylvania  tomorrow to face the Pittsburgh Penguins (6:00pm ET, NBCSP+) in their final meeting of the season.

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