VandeVelde’s goal helps Flyers snap road skid vs. struggling Sabres
R.J. Umberger and the Philadelphia Flyers broke out of a pair of slumps in style, adding to the Buffalo Sabres’ misery in the process.
Umberger’s second-period goal snapped the fourth-longest goalless streak in Flyers history at 168:50, and Philadelphia went on to end a six-game road losing streak with a 4-3 win over Buffalo on Saturday night.
"No one likes our situation in the standings," Umberger said. "But we’re still playing hockey for a living, so we’re going to have fun and dig ourselves out of it one game at a time. With the right attitude that’s how we can do it, and I think we had it tonight."
Tied at 2 in the third, Philadelphia found the lead for good in a fitting way given its scoring struggles when Chris VandeVelde whiffed on a breakaway move only to have the puck elude Michal Neuvirth.
"I kind of lost control, I think the guy was pressuring me pretty good from behind there," VandeVelde said. "It just hit my stick and found a way in."
Mark Streit and Mike Raffl also scored for Philadelphia, which won its fourth straight against the Sabres. Eleven different Flyers picked up a point on the night.
Zemgus Girgensons scored two goals, and Tyler Ennis added one for Buffalo, which became the first team since the 2006 Pittsburgh Penguins to lose 10 consecutive games in regulation, according to STATS.
The skid is two shy of Buffalo’s worst, set in 1991 and matched in 2002.
It was a step up from Thursday’s 7-0 loss to Minnesota, and Sabres head coach Ted Nolan could only shake his head.
"As long as the energy there and the compete level’s there, that’s all you can ask," Nolan said.
Both teams were sloppy early, and Girgensons awakened the arena with 1:09 left in the first when he made it 1-0. Brian Flynn and Chris Stewart dug the puck out of a scrum and worked it to the slot, where Girgensons one-timed a shot that beat Zepp high.
"He ended up one-timing it off the post," said Zepp, who finished with 24 saves. "Nice play but I want to fight through traffic a little better there."
With Girgensons in the box for holding, Umberger tied it by redirecting Matt Read’s point shot over Michal Neuvirth’s shoulder at 4:25 of the second.
And like that, the goalless streak was history.
"We know it feels long," Umberger said. "Trust me we have a group of guys here that love scoring goals and some of the guys do it often, so to go a couple games without scoring definitely feels long."
Streit made it 2-1 less than 4 minutes later with another power-play goal. Philadelphia worked the puck around the Sabres penalty killers until the veteran defenseman had an open point shot that beat Neuvirth to his right.
The Flyers earned a third power play in the second, but it nearly turned Buffalo’s way when Girgensons stripped Streit at the blue line for a breakaway. Zepp stayed with Girgensons’ left-handed move to push the chance wide.
"He’s got a great set of hands so I tried to be patient and wait for him to make the move," Zepp said. "I was able to explode to the post there."
The Sabres had another short-handed chance on the same penalty when Flynn’s backhand shot on a partial breakaway was shouldered away by Zepp.
Buffalo broke through on Ennis’ goal at 19:05 of the second. Rasmus Ristolainen’s long slap shot hit the post to the left of Zepp. Matt Moulson dug the puck free for Ennis, whose close-range backhanded shot beat the goalie to tie it 2-2.
Play was stopped early in the third when Nikita Zadorov dropped Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with a shoulder to the body. Bellemare was still on the ice for a few seconds before skating off on his own. Zadorov wasn’t penalized.
Philadelphia took a 3-2 lead on VandeVelde’s breakaway. The Flyers center lost control of the puck, and the lack of a move fooled Neuvirth, and the puck went in between his legs.
Raffl doubled the Flyers advantage with a rebound goal at 8:39 of the third.
Girgensons made it 4-3 with a power-play goal with 1:09 remaining.
"We worked way harder," Girgensons said. "We wanted this one. It’s just we made mistakes that shouldn’t have been made."
Buffalo’s last game before the All Star Break is Sunday in Detroit, while Philadelphia plays two more games before beginning its break.
NOTES: The Flyers recalled forward Jason Akeson from Lehigh Valley of the AHL. … Buffalo D Andrej Meszaros was a healthy scratch.