Having played six consecutive one-goal games, including three shootouts, the Sabres got a goal and two assists from Daniel Briere and scored three power-play goals to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 on Tuesday night.
Chris Drury, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville each added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Peters and Adam Mair also scored for the Sabres, who won for the seventh time in nine games after losing three straight.
“We battled hard and battled the whole game,” Roy said. “Our power play did a real good job and moved the puck real well.”
The Sabres took sole possession of the top spot in the NHL with 85 points – two ahead of idle Nashville – and secured 40 wins in just their 60th game, the fastest they’ve reached the mark in their 36-season history.
“Every point is important,” said defenceman Brian Campbell, who had one assist and sparked the Sabres with a fight against Philadelphia forward R.J. Umberger just two minutes in. Campbell knocked out Umberger with an open-ice hit in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs last year.
“As long as it’s over now,” he said about the bad blood. “It’s gone on too long.”
The Sabres won despite a lineup that was missing five players, but lost another forward after rookie Daniel Paille broke his left index finger. Paille will miss the next couple of weeks.
“I’m trying to see the positive, but it’s kind of ridiculous,” Briere said about the injuries.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller finished with 32 saves in his fourth consecutive start.
Simon Gagne had two goals, and Sami Kapanen also scored for the Flyers, losers of two straight and three of four. Mike Richards added three assists for the second time this season.
Philadelphia has won just once in 10 games at Buffalo since 2001.
“They’re tough to beat,” Gagne said. “They have a lot of skill.”
Roy opened the scoring with his 10th goal just four minutes in, but Gagne tied it at 11:25 of the first, slipping the puck past Miller after coming to the front of the net from the left corner.
Peters made it 2-1 just 38 seconds later with his first goal in nearly three years, banging home a rebound off Nathan Paetsch’s shot from the point.
Mair made it 3-1 with his second of the season at 1:45 of the second and Briere pushed Buffalo’s lead to 4-1 with another power-play goal 40 seconds later. Briere extended his goal streak to four games with his 27th.
That chased Robert Esche, who finished with 10 saves on 14 shots. Antero Niittymaki replaced Esche, who was making his first appearance since leaving seven minutes into a start against Atlanta on Feb. 3 with a stiff neck.
Gagne cut the lead to 4-2 with his team-leading 33rd goal, and Kapanen closed the gap to 4-3 with his eighth at 5:17 of the third, firing a wrist shot from the left circle past Miller.
“We needed to get the momentum back,” Roy said. “Everyone on the bench was saying to get some pucks on the net and get some more pressure in their zone.”
The Sabres did just that, with Drury giving Buffalo its two-goal cushion back with his team-leading 32nd at 7:39. Pominville capped the scoring with his 24th goal six minutes later to make it 6-3.
“They battled hard, but besides the little lapse we played a very good game,” Briere said.
Niittymaki finished with six saves.
“We felt at times we were the better team,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “It was an opportunity for us.”
Notes: Flyers D Alexei Zhitnik played in his 1,000th NHL game, the eighth non-North American defenceman to reach the milestone . . . Philadelphia LW Ben Eager sat out with an ankle injury sustained Monday against Boston . . . Peters, who has three career goals, hadn’t scored one since March 26, 2004 – an empty-net goal against Pittsburgh . . . Buffalo LW Clarke MacArthur earned his first career assist on Peters’ goal . . . Gagne has nine goals in seven games.