Mike Knuble and Mike Richards scored third-period goals to rally Philadelphia to a 4-3 win over Buffalo on Sunday, ending the NHL-best Sabres’ bid to earn the most points in team history.
The loss was only an inconvenient blip for the top-seeded Sabres as they head into the post-season with the best record in the NHL and home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Sabres will face either the New York Islanders or Toronto in the first round.
Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy all scored for the Sabres. Buffalo finished with a franchise record for wins (53-22-7) and tied the 1974-75 team’s record of 113 points.
That Sabres team lost to the Flyers in the Stanley Cup final, the second of back-to-back Cups for Philadelphia. This year’s Flyers will be remembered for different reasons.
Philadelphia finished with the most losses and fewest points in its 40-year history (22-48-12; 56 points) and needed this victory to reach 10 home wins. The Flyers missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
Simon Gagne scored his 41st goal and Stefan Ruzicka also scored. Martin Biron was strong in goal in his first game against the team that sent him to Philly at the trade deadline.
At least the Flyers went out a bit of a high note, rallying for goals against Sabres backup goalie Ty Conklin.
The Sabres went ahead 3-2 in the final minute of the second period when Roy scored his 21st goal and extended his scoring streak to six games.
Normally, that would have been enough to deflate the Flyers. Instead, Knuble shot the puck off Conklin’s stick to score his 24th goal of the season and quiet those rising “Let’s go, Buffalo!” chants. Yes, it truly is an awful season in Philly when the Sabres fans are more vocal than the so-called most intimidating fans in the NHL.
Knuble also helped set up the winner. His wraparound shot was stuffed by Conklin, but Richards crashed the net and poked the puck through for his 10th goal and a 4-3 lead.
The Flyers led 2-1 in the second, but Pominville tied the score after it appeared that Flyers defenceman Derian Hatcher nudged the puck over the line.
Notes: Buffalo eliminated the Flyers from the playoffs last season, then beat them 9-1 in October, leading to the hasty firing of coach Ken Hitchcock. … General manager Bobby Clarke also resigned, though he later returned as a senior vice president.