BUFFALO, N.Y. – Perhaps, the NHL might need to reconsider its decision to leave Philadelphia Flyers centre Danny Briere off its all-star game roster.
Hours after being snubbed on Tuesday, Briere scored his team-leading 22nd goal and added three assists in helping Philadelphia overcome a two-goal deficit in a 5-2 win over his former team, the Buffalo Sabres.
“I don’t think it had too much to do with that,” Briere said with a chuckle, as to whether being left off the all-star list provided him motivation. “It’s out of my control. There’s not much I can do about it.”
Teammate Scott Hartnell provided a less politically correct answer when asked about Briere’s performance.
“Danny B’s having a heck of a season and it gives him motivation to shove it up whoever didn’t pick him,” said Hartnell, who scored twice, including an empty-netter in a game the Flyers scored the final five goals.
Ville Leino scored the go-ahead goal 2:17 into the third period by having a rebound go in off his skate after Ryan Miller stopped Briere’s initial shot from the left circle on a 2-on-1 break. Though Leino moved his right skate in an attempt to kick the puck in, the puck glanced in off his left skate. The goal was reviewed and allowed to stand.
Mike Richards also scored as the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers (27-10-5) won their fourth straight and 12th of their past 16 (12-3-1).
Cody McCormick had a goal and an assist, and Paul Gaustad also scored for Buffalo (18-19-5), which led 2-0 before the first period was 10 minutes old. The Sabres lost in regulation for the first time in six games (4-1-1), and lost for the second time this season when leading by two.
The loss certainly stunted the momentum of a Sabres team itching to open the final half of its schedule by making a playoff push.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” said Miller, who stopped 28 shots. “If we’re going to compete with the top teams and win the necessary amount of games to make the playoffs, we have to be better in certain areas.”
On a day prospective Sabres owner Terry Pegula visited the team’s headquarters for informal discussions, he couldn’t have been very pleased with how Buffalo collapsed. It’s unclear if the Pennsylvania billionaire stuck around to watch the game, as he wasn’t spotted in current owner Tom Golisano’s suite.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said he didn’t have time to meet with Pegula, as he was too busy trying to prepare his team.
It appears he’s got more work to do.
“Those mistakes we made on the ice had nothing to do with Mr. Pegula being here,” Ruff said.
The Sabres started out strong and then wilted against a Flyers opponent that began pushing them around.
That was apparent on Hartnell’s power-play goal that finally got them on the board 12:41 into the first period, when he deflected in Kimmo Timonen’s point shot. Richards set up the play by bowling over Buffalo’s Jochen Hecht in the right corner to create a turnover.
Briere then tied it with 1:49 left in the second period by roofing a shot over Miller’s left shoulder to convert Timonen’s pass on a 2-on-1. Briere, who still gets a few boos from the crowd in Buffalo, is the Sabres’ former co-captain who left in free agency in the summer of 2007 to sign with the Flyers.
“It was a weird game. I don’t think we played too well in the first 40 minutes and somehow we came back in the second to be fortunate to be tied at two,” Briere said. “In the third, we showed why we’re first.”
Despite their record, the Flyers only had one player, Claude Giroux, selected to compete in the all-star game at Raleigh, N.C. on Jan. 30.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 38 shots in making his first start in four games since allowing five goals on 27 shots in a 5-2 loss at Anaheim on Dec. 31.
NOTES: The Flyers kicked off a four-game road trip and are in the midst of playing nine of 10 away from Philadelphia. … The Sabres didn’t have a player selected to play in the all-star game, but did have rookie forward Tyler Ennis selected to compete in the skills competition a day earlier. … Flyers RW Nikolay Zherdev is travelling with the team but missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury. … Through the 15-minute mark of the second period, McCormick was credited with eight of Buffalo’s 24 shots.