BUFFALO _ Early in the first period Tuesday night , Flyers winger Scott Hartnell blocked a shot, limped off the ice and went down the tunnel for medical attention.
That was before a mild, low-scoring game in Buffalo turned into third-period craziness.
And Hartnell, naturally, was in the middle of it.
The Flyers won it, 4-3, on Vinny Lecavalier’s goal with 14.8 seconds left in regulation, but it was Hartnell who was rightfully named the game’s No. 1 star.
Oh, he fell down three or four times _ “an epic HartnellDown,” Claude Giroux called one of them _ but he also had a goal and two assists to help bail out the Flyers, who ended their two-game losing streak.
The Flyers, who overcame a poor first period, scored three goals in the last 6:32.
“We showed a lot of character, especially late,” said Hartnell, who has 14 points in his last 14 games. “You could feel we were building momentum in that third period.”
Hartnell’s power-play goal _ a one-timer from the left circle with 4:07 left _ gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead.
But goalie Steve Mason allowed a soft goal just 54 seconds later, and the Flyers needed Lecavalier’s tally to notch their eighth win this season in a game they trailed in the third period _ one shy of equaling the franchise record.
“You never give up. You have to believe, believe in the system,” Hartnell said. “When you skate like we did in the third period and you win battles and you work hard, you’re going to get chances.”
The win pushed the Flyers into a virtual tie for second place in the Metro Division.
“It’s a huge two points; it’s so tight” in the division, Hartnell said.
Lecavalier ended a 13-game goal-less drought, the longest since his rookie season in 1998-99.
"It felt good; they've been hard to come by since I came back from my injury....it's a confidence-builder," said Lecavalier, whose game-winner was set up by a poised set up by Matt Read.
It was a painful defeat for the young Sabres, who have just five regulation wins _ FIVE! _ in 45 games this season.
“The last goal, one of our defensemen knocks down our goaltender and they get a shot that goes through four guys to find the net,” Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Lecavalier, 33, says his back feels fine, but that it has taken him a while to get his legs in shape since he returned to the lineup Dec. 21.
“I was out four weeks, and I didn’t do much because it was my back,” he said. “I couldn’t skate. I don’t want to use it as an excuse, but I think the last three or four games, I’m really starting to move better out there. This game is so tight, that any little inch you can get makes a huge difference. I felt I had that the last three or four games.”
Breakaways. Brayden Schenn, who scored his fifth goal in the last nine games, said the Flyers need to play better before the third period of games. “Sooner or later, you’re not going to win every game in the third,” he said. “We’re getting lucky lately and able to score some goals in the third and get some breaks and bounces.”…The Flyers outshot the Sabres, 33-19…The Sabres had been on a 6-0-2 run at home…..Wayne Simmonds had two assists and has 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in his last 14 games....Only a handful of Flyers will practice in Voorhees Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.