Lecavalier's late goal lifts Flyers over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Jhonas Enroth stood in his crease in disbelief.
With his stick laying on the ice to his right, he stared intently at the First Niagara Center video board, trying to get some glimpse as to how the Flyers finally solved him.
Until that point, with 6:32 to play in the third period last night, he was single-handedly willing his team to two points.
That's when Brayden Schenn was the recipient of a fortunate bounce. Andrej Meszaros' point shot bounced off the boards to Enroth's right, took a strange angle and found Schenn at the far post with a wide-open net.
It was an especially auspicious angle for the Flyers, one that you would have tested out in geometry class using a mirror.
With that, the floodgates opened. A defensive struggle that produced a total of two goals through the first 40 minutes ended with five in the final frame, including three in the final 4:07.
Scott Hartnell scored 2 1/2 minutes after Schenn to give the Flyers their first lead of the game. Then, Vinny Lecavalier washed away an egregious breakdown that allowed the Sabres' Tyler Ennis to tie the game again, lifting the Flyers to a wild, 4-3 win in regulation.
Somehow, someway, Lecavalier's shot with 14.8 seconds left gave the Flyers their eighth win of the season when trailing at some point in the third period. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that is one short of the Flyers' franchise record of nine third-period comebacks, set in the 1996-97 season. And there are still 35 games to play.
With another seemingly routine reversal, the Flyers were able to enjoy their traditional postgame snack of buffalo wings after their first win at First Niagara Center since Dec. 7, 2011.
More importantly, Lecavalier broke a 13-game goal-less drought, dating to Nov. 27 in Tampa Bay before his back injury. It was the longest single-season scoring slump in Lecavalier's impressive career since his rookie season (1998-99).
"They have been hard to come by since I got back," said Lecavalier, who missed nine games with a non-displaced fracture in his lower back from Dec. 2-21. "Sometimes, a goal like that can jump-start you, give you a little more confidence. It was a huge goal for our team."
The Flyers snapped a two-game losing streak and headed back to Philadelphia with an important two points, which allowed them to climb back above the Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The trip wrapped up an arduous stretch of 21 out of 31 games away from home. Now the Flyers will try to build a new winning streak of their own at home, when they face Nashville tomorrow night.
"This probably wasn't our best game," Lecavalier said, "but I think we showed a lot of will."
In the third period, the Flyers kept pushing until they finally solved Enroth with Schenn's fortuitous bounce. They scored three times on 15 shots alone in the third period, nearly matching Buffalo's total number of shots (19) for the entire game.
For the most part, it was a see-saw affair, with nearly a full third (17:48) of the game being played on special teams. For the Flyers, it was an important lesson in not taking teams below them in the standings for granted. Despite Buffalo's league-worst record, the Sabres had reeled off a run of eight straight games in which they had collected at least a point.
"Every point is important, but especially after two losses in a row," Lecavalier said. "I think no matter who you're playing against, you want to win. You can't think that the two points are automatic. Two points are hard to come by in this league - against any team."
Scott Hartnell led the Flyers with a three-point night. Two of them came on the power play, as he set up Jake Voracek's goal to open the scoring and tallied a go-ahead goal himself in the third. It was Hartnell's second three-point game of the season.
Ennis seemed to surprise Steve Mason, who had seen just four prior shots in the third period, when he knotted the game with 3:13 to play. On this night, with another confident comeback, Lecavalier's emotionally charged magic saved the goalie.
"It was just an ugly game overall," Mason said. "It was a tough game for me. I was real busy, lots of standing around. With one of those games, when you get the two points, you're just happy it's over."
The Flyers scored at least one power-play goal (2-for-6) for the second straight game. They are 6-for-24 (25 percent) over the last six games . . . Meanwhile, the penalty kill has killed off 30 of 31 (96.1 percent) chances over the last nine games . . . Scott Hartnell has 14 points in his last 14 games.
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