BUFFALO - A late-season surge pushed the Flyers into the playoffs last season, and they are working diligently on producing a sequel.
The Flyers, led by defenseman Radko Gudas' surprising offense, increased their point streak to four games Tuesday night with a 6-3 win at KeyBank Center and inched closer in the wild-card race.
Matt Read, Gudas, Jordan Weal, Claude Giroux, Chris VandeVelde, and Travis Konecny scored for the Flyers, who had six five-on-five goals for the first time this season.
The Flyers matched their season high for goals in a game. They also had six goals in wins over Carolina and Edmonton.
With 17 games left, the Flyers are three points behind the Islanders for the final wild-card spot, and two points behind Toronto.
At a corresponding point last season, the Flyers were ninth-seeded in the East and were two points behind Detroit for the final wild-card spot. They were eight points behind Boston, the team they eventually supplanted for a playoff berth.
"Every game is a playoff game and these two points are very important for us," said Gudas, who finished with three points, equaling a career high, and a plus-five rating. "The playoff push is on and we need every point we can get."
VandeVelde and Konecny scored in the first 5:21 of the third period to increase the lead to 6-2. VandeVelde's goal was originally credited to Michael Del Zotto (plus-five) but was changed after the game. It was ruled that Del Zotto's blast deflected off VandeVelde.
VandeVelde's goal, his first in 38 games, was scored after goalie Steve Mason made two huge saves to preserve a two-goal lead.
Giroux scored on a rebound with just under two minutes left in the second period, increasing the Flyers' lead to 4-2. Giroux, visibly upset with his play as he slammed the boards in disgust after a failed first-period power play, scored just his third goal in the last 30 games.
"I stuck with it and it was good to get that goal," Giroux said. "Every line played great tonight. I think we've been playing well five-on-five, but it just hasn't gone in."
A little over four minutes earlier, Weal scored his second goal in the last four games to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead with 6:12 to go in the second period. Jake Voracek's crossing pass deflected off Weal's back skate and into the net as he hustled into the blue paint.
"We got pucks deep . . . and got to the net, and that's a good formula for success," Weal said.
Weal's score negated Jack Eichel's 17th goal of the season, a power-play tally that deflected off defenseman Andrew MacDonald and past Mason.
The goal made Buffalo 5 for 8 on the power play in three games against the Flyers this season.
A little over two minutes earlier, Gudas scored from the right circle, beating Robin Lehner high and to the short side to give the Flyers a brief 2-1 lead.
Buffalo, which blew a 3-0 lead and dropped a 4-3 decision in Pittsburgh on Sunday, fell into a 1-0 hole when Read tipped Gudas' shot through the legs of Lehner with 15:26 left in the first. It was Read's first goal in 12 games and second in his last 39 games.
"My linemates did great work in the corners, digging the puck, battling and getting it to Gudy," Read said, referring to Sean Couturier (two assists, plus-three) and Nick Cousins. "I was lucky enough to get a stick on it. I don't think the goalie saw much of it."
The Flyers badly outplayed the Sabres in the first 15 minutes, outshooting the hosts, 13-7, and creating several quality scoring chances.
But 15 seconds after Brayden Schenn was penalized for hooking, Evander Kane's right-circle blast beat a screened Mason to knot the score at 1-all.
In the opening period, the Flyers couldn't convert any of their three power plays, including one that carried into the second period for 33 seconds. They had lots of good chances on their first power play, but their next two times with a man-advantage were futile - a combined one shot and nine Buffalo clears.
But their five-on-five play - which has been second-worst in the NHL - carried the Flyers to their third win the in their last four games (3-0-1).
The Flyers will play in Toronto on Thursday and in Boston on Saturday afternoon, facing two teams also fighting for playoff spots.
"It's probably our biggest week of the season so far," Konecny said.