PHILADELPHIA – It had been 20 years since the Flyers last went winless in a season against the Buffalo Sabres.
But anything is possible in this lost campaign for the Philadelphians.
Sunday’s 5-3 win by the Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center completed a three-game sweep of the season series and spotlighted how far the Flyers have sunk this season.
A goal by Victor Olofsson (the first of two) at 9:43 of the second period broke a 2-2 tie and helped send the Flyers to their fifth straight defeat and 10th in the last 12 games.
Tage Thompson added a fourth goal at 14:22. Zack MacEwen scored with 5:53 to play in the game but that was as close as the Flyers could get.
Buffalo, which set an NHL record with its 11th straight season without a playoff berth, completed a weekend sweep which began with a 4-3 win on Saturday night in upstate New York.
Rookie goaltender Felix Sandstrom took the loss in goal for the Flyers.
There were times over the weekend where the Flyers simply didn’t look all that motivated at times. They’ve been out of playoff contention since last month so there seems to be a lack of energy.
“I feel like there should be motivation,’’ Kevin Hayes said after the game. “In the NHL we get paid millions of dollars to show up and perform at our jobs. If you can’t find one (reason to be motivated), you shouldn’t be on the ice.’’
Interim head coach Mike Yeo couldn’t come up for valid reasons why the Flyers’ execution was so poor at times. On Buffalo’s second goal, the Flyers decided to make a line change and it was a horrible decision. It appeared half the Buffalo players on the ice were left unguarded.
“It’s just a matter of recognition,’’ Yeo said. “We spend of time and energy and focus on changes and how to change properly because it’s such a critical part of the game now. Unfortunately for us, because we don’t spend as much time with the puck, we put ourselves in position where we are either playing tired or changing in bad situations. That situation our D has to have better recognition, we can’t be changing like that.’’
The Flyers pulled even at 2-2 on a controversial goal at 1:20 of the second period.
Travis Konecny was jabbing at a puck in the crease when several players crashed into the net and then the whistle blew, with the referees initially awarding the Flyers a penalty shot.
But after reviewing the play on video, officials reversed the call and ruled the puck had crossed the line. The goal was awarded to Noah Cates.
For the second straight game of this back-to-back set, the Flyers jumped out to an early lead. Hayes connected just 1:16 into the game. Cates cut off a Buffalo outlet try and got the puck to Hayes, who fanned on his first shot attempt but took the rebound and slid it past goaltender Dustin Toharski.
The Sabres rallied with goals from Olofsson at 8:36 and Anders Bjork at 17:34 to lead 2-1 after one period.
So the Flyers have lost five straight to the Sabres and it’s certainly not something to be proud of.
>Sandstrom keeps Flyers in it
Although Sandstrom is now 0-3 in his brief NHL career, he has shown flashes of pro talent. The Flyers are watching him closely with the possibility of having him back up Carter Hart next season.
“The last couple times he’s played really well,’’ MacEwen noted. “He’s done a great job. He should keep his head up.
Sandstrom knows it’s a big jump from the AHL to the NHL and it takes time to make the adjustment.
“It’s gone pretty good, all my games,’’ said the Finn native. “(Tonight) I thought I got better and better as the game went. I need to get sharp right from the start. That’s where my focus is.’’
>Mask mandate returns
Heads up for those planning to attend any of the Flyers’ final two home games (Sunday, April 24 vs. Pittsburgh; Friday, April 29 vs. Ottawa): The Philadelphia indoor mask mandate is back in effect
According to the Wells Fargo Center website, effective Monday, April 18, fans attending WFC events are required to wear a mask in the arena. Fans are no longer required to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test to enter the arena.
>Flyers honor Bricker
At Sunday’s game, the Flyers recognized Harry Bricker, the club’s long-serving equipment manager, for working his 2,500th professional game on Apr. 12 at Washington.
General manager, Chuck Fletcher, presented Bricker with a Tiffany Crystal and the team recognized the milestone with the equipment and training staff presenting him a special team-signed jersey with ‘2500’ embroidered on the back. The players wore a specially designed ‘2500’ t-shirt pregame, and presented him with an all-expense paid golf package which includes tickets to the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. from June 16-19.
Bricker is in his 29th season as an equipment manager with the Flyers organization, including his 22nd consecutive season with the club, having served from 1991-95, and returning for the 2001-02 season.
The Flyers resume action on Tuesday when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs. . .Nothing new to report on the injury list – Cam Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam York, Patrick Brown and goalie Carter Hart remain sidelined.