PHILADELPHIA – Brayden Schenn made the save of the game for the Philadelphia Flyers. No goalie pads necessary, just pure hustle.
Schenn’s quick swipe at a free puck just before it crossed the line for the tying goal late in the third period was enough to help the Flyers snap a three-game losing streak and beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Sunday night.
Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne and Max Talbot all scored and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 18 shots for the Flyers (12-14-1), who are still on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“We had confidence in our play and were positive on the bench and the room, so we had fun,” Giroux said. “We need to be confident in what we do out there.”
Trailing by a goal with 5:40 left, Cody Hodgson’s shot slipped past Bryzgalov, positioned at the top of the crease. The puck inched its way toward the line when Schenn swooped in with a split-second lunge with his stick and cleared it for the save. Back on the bench, Schenn simply shrugged at the play.
Without it, the Flyers might have been in a deeper hole than they already are.
“I turned around to play defence and the shot deflected,” Schenn said. “I don’t know how close it was to the goal line, but to help Bryz out when I can is always a good feeling.”
The win kept the Flyers in striking distance for a playoff spot. They are ahead of the Sabres, who are buried in last place in the Northeast Division and have lost four straight. Brian Flynn and Jochen Hecht scored for Buffalo.
With both teams struggling, tempers were short. Buffalo’s Mike Weber slugged it out with Wayne Simmonds, and Sabres centre Steve Ott threw a punch at Kimmo Timonen.
Hecht scored early in the third to make it 3-2 and give the Sabres some life. But Schenn followed with the save.
The Flyers will take the stops however they come. They needed this one a day after a 3-0 loss at Boston. The Flyers held a closed-door team meeting after the game.
“It doesn’t take much to understand what’s going on,” Gagne said. “You look at the standings, and I think everyone came to the locker room today and looked at where we were at and how many games we have left. I’m not good at math but if you look at it we have to win games right now.”
Philadelphia was coming off a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday, going scoreless in the final two periods and blowing a 4-1 lead. The drought reached five periods on Saturday.
There was no danger of a slump against the Sabres. Gagne scored his second goal since he was reacquired from Los Angeles on a slow trickler past Ryan Miller on the power play. Talbot scored Philadelphia’s first short-handed goal of the season minutes later for a 2-0 lead.
Flynn punched in the rebound to make it 2-1 midway through the first.
Then they rumbled.
Simmonds took out Tyler Ennis and followed it with a fight against Weber. Simmonds connected with three straight rights to the side of the face and easily won that fight as the crowd roared in appreciation. Weber was hit with a misconduct. Ennis didn’t return.
Ott threw a punch at Timonen to end the first. Hartnell went up to Ott, and the two jawed at each other as they left the ice to end the period.
Giroux made Buffalo pay when he scored only 17 seconds into the third for Philadelphia’s second power-play goal and a 3-1 lead.
“We’ve got to be ready to go,” Sabres coach Ron Ralston said. “We didn’t have enough urgency or desperation off the start. We kind of got a little back as the game went on.”
The Flyers fumbled the puck at the blue line, and Hecht capitalized with a short-handed goal to make it 3-2. It was just too late.
Each team had more hits than goals from there. Buffalo forward Nathan Gerbe tried to rough up Giroux along the back boards with hits to the back and head. Luke Schenn stood up for Giroux and sent Gerbe into the boards.
The Flyers showed they aren’t about to back down as they jostle for a playoff spot.
“We talked about coming out here tonight and actually playing with an edge,” Talbot said. “We’re finishing our checks a bit more. We’re a dangerous team when we skate, play physical and have two guys on the forecheck.”
NOTES: The Flyers will play three games over the next 13 days. … The Flyers have already played six sets of back-to-back games this season. … The Sabres are 3-4-1 since they fired coach Lindy Ruff. … Only Florida has fewer points in the Eastern Conference.
Follow Dan Gelston at Twitter.com/APGgelston