BUFFALO, N.Y. — Woe, the Buffalo Sabres.
Phew, for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Ivan Provorov set up Sean Couturier’s tying goal with 1:29 left, and then scored 42 seconds into overtime, and the Flyers overcame a three-goal third-period deficit in a 4-3 win to extend Buffalo’s winless skid to 18 on Monday night.
The Sabres’ 0-15-3 streak matches the 18th longest in NHL history, and is the worst since the Pittsburgh Penguins went 0-17-1 during the 2003-04 season.
Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux scored 10 minutes apart in the third period and Brian Elliott stopped 29 shots. The Flyers, coming off a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday, won consecutive games for the first time since capping a three-game winning streak with back-to-back 3-0 wins over Buffalo on Feb. 27 and 28.
“I think when you’re down a few goals, obviously you rely on your offensive guys to make a difference and get you back in the game,” Couturier said. “We found a way to do that tonight. But like I said, we can’t put ourselves in those situations too often and expect to win many games.”
Provorov’s decisive goal came on a 2-on-1 break after Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin turned the puck over in the Philadelphia end. Set up by a pass from Travis Konecny, Provorov drove to the net from the left wing and slipped a shot under goalie Linus Ullmark’s pads.
As a hoot of celebration erupted around Provorov in an arena without fans in attendance, the Sabres headed off shaking their heads.
“Panic attack. We haven’t been in this situation, we got panicked,” Dahlin said. “The puck bounces their way and, I don’t know.”
The Sabres haven’t won since a 4-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 23. They also extended their home losing skid to 0-9-2, the second longest in team history, and one short of the record set during during the 1990-91 season, when Buffalo went 0-6-1 with five ties.
The teams meet again on Wednesday.
The Sabres were coming of a 3-2 loss at Boston on Saturday in which they blew a pair of one-goal leads. Now this.
Henri Jokiharju, Cody Eakin and Brandon Montour scored in giving Buffalo a lead entering the third period for just the eighth time this season. Ullmark finished with 32 saves in his second start since missing a month with a lower-body injury.
“You go up 3-0 like that, especially as desperate as we are to just get two points, it’s embarrassing,” Montour said. “I know this whole stretch is embarrassing, but especially tonight. Any team in the NHL, I don’t care who you are, that’s a win.”
Leave it to Buffalo to find yet another way to turn a victory into a loss during a calamitous season in which they’ve fired their coach, endured a two-week COVID-19 pause, and have been beset by a mounting list of injuries. Add it up, and the team is likely headed toward extending its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th season.
Buffalo has now been outscored by a combined 74-28 (not including a goal credited in a shootout loss).
The turning point came 1:50 into the third period when Hayes was set up in the slot and had his shot deflect in off Dahlin’s stick. Giroux then scored by converting Couturier’s no-look pass in front into the open left side.
Couturier’s tying goal came when he tipped in Provorov’s shot from the left point and with the Flyers net empty for an extra attacker. Some 15 seconds earlier, Buffalo’s Tage Thompson stumbled driving into the neutral zone, but had enough momentum to reach out with his stick and poke the puck forward only to have it slide just wide of the open net.
“It was a lot of mixed emotions throughout the game,” Hayes said of the Flyers. “Being down 3-0 and you’re giving a team that hasn’t won in a long time a chance to get their first win. It wasn’t a great feeling, and the boys stuck together and battled it out.”
Elliott stopped the final 20 shots he faced, and improved his record against Buffalo to 17-2-2. Elliott got the start with Carter Hart being relegated to practice-only duty through at least Wednesday. Coach Alain Vigneault announced Hart will focus on practice over playing in a bid to pull the third-year starter out of a season-long funk.
Rookie centre Dylan Cozens did not return after sustaining an upper body injury after being crunched into the boards by Phillippe Myers 12 minutes in.
Backup goalie Carter Hutton is week to week with a lower body injury. He missed his fourth game since being hurt in the opening minutes of a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers on March 22. Rookie D Jacob Bryson is day to day with an undisclosed injury after being hurt Saturday.
Thompson returned after missing three games with an illness. Rieder returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury.
FOCUSED ON PHILLY
Speaking before the team’s morning skate, Vigneault had enough to worry about regarding his own team than to reflect on the Sabres’ string of woes. He was also counting on his team leaders to guard against over-confidence.
“I expect the leadership of this group to make sure everyone’s on high alert,” Vigneault said. “They understand the importance of this game.”