PHILADELPHIA – Apparently the Flyers didn’t learn much from their game against the last-place but somewhat underrated New Jersey Devils back on Feb. 6.
In that game, the Flyers were caught looking ahead to an upcoming game against the powerhouse Washington Capitals and wound up getting embarrassed by the Jersey boys, 5-zip.
On Saturday night, the Flyers might have once again been guilty about thinking ahead to NHL-leading Boston on Tuesday night.
They were in a battle all night with the Atlantic Division’s sixth-place Buffalo Sabres, who outshot them by a 39-24 margin, and it took a pair of Claude Giroux goals plus some stellar goaltending by Carter Hart to forge a 3-1 victory, extending their winning streak to nine games.
In the process, the Flyers raised their home record to 25-5-4.
The Capitals beat Pittsburgh on Saturday so the Flyers remain in a virtual tie with Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Hart raised his home record to 20-2-2.
“Good teams find ways to win,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said after the game. “And Carter Hart, at the end of the day, our goaltender was the best player on the ice. He kept us in.
“Our goaltender had his best stuff and the other 18 guys were OK. Our goaltender was the difference in the game.’’
The Flyers looked so lethargic through two periods that both Giroux and Jake Voracek gave the troops a little pep talk during the intermission.
That message appeared to have the desired effect.
“There wasn’t much to say, we’re pretty confident in how we play,’’ Giroux revealed. “We really weren’t playing at our best. We just tried to keep it simple in the third and just wait for our chances.’’
Added Voracek: “We didn’t deserve to win tonight. We were really flat for the 60 minutes. Hart made some huge stops. . .we were lucky we won. At the end, you don’t ask how. Sometimes you just have those games, you don’t play your best. And sometimes you play your best and you lose. Right now, everything we touch is working.’’
Hart just keeps rolling along, especially at the WFC. After a slow start this season, he’s now 24-12-3 overall. On this night, he saved his team’s bacon against a team which has talent but still hovers below .500.
“Honestly, in this league, I think we’ve learned before (like the Devils) that any team can beat anybody on any given night,’’ he said. “So, we just have to stick to our game plan.’’
Giroux scored his second goal at 9:28 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie. He finished off a give-and-go play with Voracek.
At 14:49, Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton fumbled a clear attempt and Joel Farabee made him pay to give the Flyers a two-goal cushion.
Giroux’s first goal, his 20th goal of the season, got the Flyers on the scoreboard first at 10:04 of the second period.
Hutton made an initial save on Travis Sanheim’s long shot but the rebound found its way onto Voracek’s stick. He relayed the puck across the crease but the pass was a bit wide. So Giroux stuck out his skate, stopped the puck and backhanded it past Hutton.
“I saw the puck at the last second and my skate sort of slowed the puck down,’’ Giroux explained. “I was able to ahold of it and put it in.’’
The Sabres responded with a goal at 16:54. Marcus Johansson muscled past Flyer defenseman Philippe Myers and found Victor Olofsson open in front. He whipped a pass to Dominik Kahun for the tying goal.
The Flyers had a tough time getting the engine started in a scoreless first period.
Playing their third game in the past four days, the Flyers needed some time to get their legs moving.
Buffalo, coming off a tough loss to Pittsburgh, outshot the Flyers, 13-4, for the period and had the majority of good scoring chances.
Hart kept the Flyers in it with a handful of tough saves.
The Sabres still had the Flyers backpedaling for much of the second period.
Farabee said a message needed to be sent and Giroux-Voracek delivered.
“I think Jake and ‘G’ said a good message after the second,’’ Farabee said. “We knew it probably wasn’t our best effort. But good teams find a way to win.’’
Farabee, just called up to spell the injured James van Riemsdyk, finally got rewarded for some hard work. Getting a good forecheck forced Hutton to fumble the puck, leading to the big third goal.
“I didn’t think it was ever going to come again,’’ said Farabee, who hadn’t scored in eight games. “But obviously that one felt good.’’
>Ouch, that hurts!
Hart admitted that during the game he took a shot in the private parts and needed a few deep breaths to recover. “Right underneath the cup, that one. . .in the nuts,’’ he said with a smile. “It didn’t feel very good. Yup.’’
>Off day coming
The Flyers will have off from practice on Sunday. They return to action on Tuesday against the Bruins. . .The Flyers are 10-0-1 when tied after two periods. . .Hart has 14 games in which he has allowed one or fewer goals. He is 12-1-1 in those games. . .This is the seventh time in franchise history the Flyers have won nine or more consecutive games.