BUFFALO, N.Y. — Claude Giroux was nervous about centring the Philadelphia Flyers‘ top line for the first time in two seasons.
Once he settled in, Giroux guided the Flyers to their most goals in a game in nearly two months. Philadelphia’s captain had a goal and three assists Saturday in a 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
"I’d like to tell you it’s like riding a bike, but it’s not," Giroux said. "But it turned out great tonight."
With Sean Couturier out because of a lower-body injury, Giroux moved from right wing to centre in Philadelphia’s lead group of forwards. He had four points in a game for the first time since an Oct. 14, 2017 win over Washington.
"It’s not easy but he’s a natural centerman," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "He’s our captain and stepped up in a lot of different fashions tonight."
James van Riemsdyk also moved up to the top line and had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, who opened a five-game road trip with their third win in 10 games.
Ivan Provorov, Wayne Simmonds, Dale Weise and Travis Konecny also scored. Michael Raffl had two assists and Anthony Stolarz made 28 saves.
After scoring twice in the third period to force overtime and earn a point in a 4-3 loss to Columbus on Thursday, the Flyers scored six straight after the Sabres took a 2-0 lead.
Giroux’s shorthanded goal gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead early in the third period. Simmonds, Weise and Konecny each scored from close range in a span of less than three minutes to put the game out of reach.
Provorov scored the tying goal midway through the second period. Scott Laughton dug the puck out of the corner to set up the scoring chance.
The six regulation goals were the most the Flyers have scored since a 7-5 win at Ottawa on Oct. 10. Entering the game 15th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference with 25 points, this was Philadelphia’s first win since hiring general manager Chuck Fletcher on Monday to replace Ron Hextall, who was fired one week earlier.
"There have been a lot of off-ice things that have been happening," Giroux said. "And I think because we have such a tight group in here that we’re able to keep playing hockey and keep doing the things we’re doing,"
Jack Eichel scored twice for the Sabres, who have lost five straight following a 10-game winning streak. Linus Ullmark stopped 35 shots.
"The streak we were on, that’s over. It means nothing now," Eichel said. "Now I think we are losing sight of what made us successful."
After scoring once in his previous 16 games, Eichel had two goals in the third period of Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto on Tuesday. He followed that with two first-period goals against the Flyers.
The Sabres captain banked a rising shot off the far post for the first goal 4:04 into the game. Eichel then deflected Lawrence Pilut’s shot from the point to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead with a little under eight minutes remaining in the period.
Sam Rinehart had an assist on Eichel’s first goal, extending his career-best point streak to six games. Pilut’s assist was the first NHL point in four games for the rookie defenceman.
The Flyers got on the board 50 seconds later when Giroux won a faceoff and set up van Riemdsdyk’s quick wrist shot from the high slot.
NOTES: Sabres G Carter Hutton is day to day with an upper-body injury. Buffalo called up Scott Wedgewood from the minors to back up Ullmark. … Sabres D Matt Tennyson made his season debut after being called up on Friday. … Sabres RW Jason Pominville returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. … Sabres RW Kyle Okposo played in his 700th NHL game.
Flyers: Conclude back-to-back at Winnipeg on Sunday.
Sabres: Host Los Angeles on Tuesday.