PHILADELPHIA – Another third-period loss was bad enough. But adding injury to insult, the Flyers lost the services of starting goaltender Carter Hart in a 5-2 loss to Buffalo on Wednesday night.
The injury took place exactly halfway through the second period.
The Sabres actually scored on the play as Brandon Biro, who had two goals for the game, followed up a pass from Tage Thompson right in front. Initially, Hart moved over to stop the puck but it eluded him for a 2-1 Buffalo lead. Hart paused for a moment, then skated slowly toward the Flyers bench.
Later it was disclosed Hart, last year’s team MVP, suffered a mid-body injury. He did not return and was replaced by Sam Ersson.
After the game, coach John Tortorella said he had no update on Hart’s condition. The team will not practice Thursday because the Flyers play a rematch game in Buffalo on Friday night, followed by a home game against Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Buffalo’s Owen Power broke a 2-2 tie with a goal at 3:03 of the third period for the go-ahead marker at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers fell to under .500 for the first time this season at 4-5-1.
If Hart is out for an extended period of time, Ersson is going to have to raise his level of play. He did hold the Sabres off the board until the third period but allowed a pair of goals, this coming off a seven-goal shelling by Anaheim on Saturday.
Coming in on short notice isn’t easy but it’s part of the job.
“It’s your job to be prepared for the eventuality you are going in,” he said after the game. “I just want to win. It’s tough. But that’s the job. That’s why I’m here, to stop pucks. I want to help this team win some hockey games.”
The Flyers managed to tie the score after losing Hart with a goal at 16:17 of the middle frame. Travis Sanheim took control at the back end of a three-on-two rush, then spotted Cam Atkinson on the right side cutting to the net. Atkinson deflected the pass beyond the reach of goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Back in the opening period the Flyers got on the scoreboard first. Joel Farabee flipped a high shot that nicked off defenseman Henri Jokiharju and got past Luukkonen just 55 seconds after the opening whistle.
The Sabres struck back at 3:38 as Casey Mittelstadt’s shot found its way past Hart. Then, after Buffalo had an apparent goal disallowed on an offside violation (courtesy of a Flyer bench challenge), the Biro goal took place.
After the Biro goal, the teams played fairly even hockey until Thompson scored on a close-range shot at 13:28 of the third period. Buffalo added an empty-net goal by Biro in the final three-plus minutes.
It has to be somewhat frustrating to lose so many close games but the Flyers are determined not to let it get to them.
“I thought we played a pretty good game for 50 minutes,” Scott Laughton said. “Don’t get the results. Go back to the drawing board.”
The Flyers did up their defense level after the Hart injury but it wasn’t enough.
“You saw last year how good he (Ersson) was,” Laughton said. “Probably a couple games he wants to have back. But I thought he was really strong for us. It’s tough as a goalie coming in, you’re a little bit cold. He gave us a chance. Not much he could do on the last two (shots).”
Sanheim has the same mindset. He gave a nod to the Flyers’ improved defense after the injury to Hart. The Flyers finished with a 40-15 edge in shots.
“We weren’t happy with how we started the game,” he said. “It really didn’t matter about the goalie change. We just wanted to tighten some things up. I thought we did that. It’s frustrating when the puck’s not going in but we’re still generating those chances.”
Tortorella understands there are going to be some growing pains, especially with at least four kids in the lineup.
“I thought we started slow again, gathered ourselves and then played a pretty good hockey game,” he said. “We did not finish. We give up the odd-man rush and they score (on the third goal). We haven’t found a way the last couple games to get past that number two goal.
“What we need to do is just stay with it. Not overthink it. Just continue to play the right way. And I thought for a good portion of the game we did. Checked well, jammed the neutral zone and had a ton of chances. But give their goalie credit, he played a good game.”
>Supporting Lewiston, Maine victims
Players from the Flyers and Sabres wore blue tape on their sticks in support of all those affected by the tragic events which took place in Lewiston on October 15, The player-used autographed sticks will be available for auction through FlyersCharities.com with all proceeds benefiting the Lewiston Strong Fund created by the Boston Bruins.
“Being from Maine, my family and I were devastated to hear about the tragedy that took place in Lewiston,” the Flyers’ Garnet Hathaway said. “I’m extremely thankful for my teammates, the entire Flyers and Sabres organization and my friends from around the NHL for supporting the Lewiston Strong Fund and Maine community.”
If you wish to contribute, visit FlyersCharities.com
Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Marc Staal remain sidelined with injuries.