PHILADELPHIA – As well as the Flyers have played in recent weeks, the matter of giving up too many goals at inopportune times continues to plague their overall performance.
Perfect example: The Flyers were cruising along in a 1-1 tie with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night when their defense suddenly disappeared for a few costly moments.
The visitors scored three times in a span of just two minutes, 21 seconds and went on to a 6-3 defeat of the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Inconsistent defense has been a problem throughout the Flyers’ season.
While their 249 goals allowed this season might not look too bad on paper, it’s their on one night, off another defense efforts which must keep their coaches up at night.
In its last 15 games, Philadelphia has surrendered at least five goals in seven of those matches.
The setback to the Sabres ended the Flyers’ seven-game streak (5-0-2) of at least a point. Philadelphia fell back to .500 at 17-17-5 on home ice.
Associate coach Brad Shaw, filling in for head coach John Tortorella for a second straight game, said the Flyers got “a little loose” during that stretch early in the second period.
“You have to remember you can create offense by playing disciplined, playing the right way,” Shaw said. “I think our defense just got a little impatient. You know, they’re a team that can hurt you. They have a lot of skill.
“In that small window, we pretty much gave the game away.”
The Sabres had played a tough, physical game in a 3-2 overtime win over the New York Rangers on Friday night in Buffalo but did not seem too fatigued by that effort.
Five of the six Buffalo goals were scored at even strength and the sixth was a shorthanded effort.
Buffalo’s Alex Tuch certainly looked well rested. He scored a hat trick.
After briefly falling behind due to the first of two Morgan Frost goals, the Sabres woke up and connected for five straight goals against starting goaltender Felix Sandstrom.
Travis Konecny, just back from a lengthy injury layoff, shouldered some of the blame.
“I know there were a couple terrible mistakes by me,” he said. “Just got to be better. Got to clean that up.”
Kyle Okposo started the parade with a goal off a two-on-one rush with 10 seconds left in the first period.
Then Buffalo went on its rampage.
Tuch scored the first of his three goals with a hard wrist shot from the right faceoff dot at 1:25. Jordan Greenway made it 3-1 at 2:40, then Jeff Skinner completed the “hat trick” with a goal at 3:46.
Tuch’s second goal at 16:02 pretty much put the game out of reach.
Frost scored with a short-side shot from the right dot past Buffalo goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen at 16:35 of the first period. Later, Frost notched his 18th of the season (and second two-goal game of the past three) at 18:24.
Konecny scored at 5:09 of the third period to cut the Buffalo lead to 5-3.
Overall, he felt pretty good considering the length of his time away.
“The medical staff does a great job of getting you in the best game shape possible,” he said.
Tuch scored his final goal while the Sabres were shorthanded with 3:27 to play.
“Too many critical errors I think in that stretch in the second period,” Frost said. “Mental mistakes. Giving up odd-man rushes. You can’t have that.
“I feel kind of bad for him (Sandstrom). He’s battled all year. He works so hard. To give up so many chances, almost freebie goals, it’s definitely disappointing. Just want to be better for him because he deserves it.”
The Flyers head to Pittsburgh for a Sunday encounter with the Penguins. . .Tortorella said there will be no more practices for the final two weeks of the season. The Flyers will do their pre-game prep work at morning skates. . ..The Flyers had won the previous two games against Buffalo with a goal advantage of 9-2. . .Philadelphia went with seven defensemen. . .Sandstrom, filling in for the injured Carter Hart, saw his season record fall to 2-11-3. . .The Flyers are 5-7-2 in the first half of back-to-back games this season and enter Sunday’s game 2-10-1 in the second.