PHILADELPHIA – Sean O’Donnell helped the Philadelphia Flyers win a game with his fists instead of his stick.
After Philadelphia’s lacklustre loss in Columbus on Monday, O’Donnell’s first-period fight provided much-needed energy for his teammates, and helped spur the Flyers’ 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
Jeff Carter scored a goal and had two assists, and the Flyers survived a third-period flurry to help forget about a frustrating 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets, a game in which they said they lacked energy.
“We came out pretty flat, and Sean picked a great time to get a fight going,” said Claude Giroux, who added a goal and an assist. “We started playing after that. It was the turning point of the game. Yesterday wasn’t pretty, but tonight guys were working and it turned out good.”
Danny Briere also recorded a goal and an assist for Philadelphia, which had lost four of five. Nikolai Zherdev, Darroll Powe and Andreas Nodl scored for the Flyers (4-4-1). Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves.
Thomas Vanek scored in the first period, and Tyler Myers and Steve Montador scored goals in the third for the Sabres, who dropped to 3-6-1. Derek Roy had two assists, raising his team-leading point total to 11. Roy has led Buffalo in scoring the past three seasons.
Buffalo took a 1-0 lead when Montador’s shot from the blue-line deflected off Vanek and over Bobrovsky’s right shoulder. After scoring one goal in his first eight games, Vanek has three goals in two games.
Just 21 seconds later, the 39-year-old O’Donnell fought Cody McCormick. As O’Donnell skated to the penalty box, the crowd of 19,361 roared in approval, and the Flyers’ bench appeared to come to life.
“Once they scored, and I saw who was on the ice, I thought—and I didn’t want to get a penalty for doing anything silly—if there was a chance to get our bench going and crowd going, I thought it was a good time to try something,” O’Donnell said. “It worked out well.”
The Flyers poured it on, peppering goalie Ryan Miller with 33 shots.
“I think it switched right around then,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of O’Donnell’s fight. “We were sluggish at first. It brought a little energy to the building, a little energy to the bench and we played better hockey.”
Briere answered Vanek’s power-play goal with one with 4:45 remaining in the first period. His team-leading sixth goal came off a feed from Carter. Briere wrapped around the front of the net and fired his rebound past Miller.
Half of Briere’s goals have come on the power play, and the centre is off to his best start since scoring nine goals in nine games with the Sabres in the 2005-06 season.
The Eastern Conference champion Flyers scored three times against Miller. Zherdev’s goal was first at 4:43 when he weaved through traffic and flipped a wrist shot past Miller’s stick side. Scott Hartnell earned his 200th NHL assist on the goal.
At 11:44, Giroux fed a cross-ice pass during an odd-man rush to Powe for an easy goal.
Nearly three minutes later, Giroux scored an unassisted goal. He won a faceoff and fired a shot in off defenceman Michael Grier’s left skate.
Carter gave Philadelphia a 5-1 lead 38 seconds into the third period during a power play. He deflected in Mike Richards’ shot from the faceoff circle.
“We let it go downhill,” Miller said. “It was all created by us, and we have to clean it up.”
Myers, last season’s NHL rookie of the year, cut the Sabres’ deficit to 5-2. Of the game’s eight goals, five were scored during power plays. Montador brought Buffalo within 5-3 with 7:28 left.
Luke Adam, recalled by Buffalo from Portland of the AHL, made his NHL debut. Shortly after hitting the post with a first-period shot, he was charged with his first penalty—interference.
Notes: The Flyers honoured former defenceman Barry Ashbee in a pre-game ceremony, and presented his original retired No. 4 banner to his family. Ashbee died of leukemia in 1977. … Adam replaced Rob Niedermayer, who stayed in Buffalo to be with his wife, who gave birth to a girl on Monday. … Buffalo managing partner Larry Quinn is recovering from heart surgery on Monday that repaired an aortic aneurysm. … Sabres defenceman Craig Rivet (shoulder) is day to day. RW Jason Pominville (concussion) hopes to begin skating later this week.