Buffalo has rolled to a perfect start through six games. With a 9-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, the Sabres don’t seem to be slowing down a bit. “Not all games are going to go like this,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’re painting a pretty picture. But it hasn’t been that easy.”
The Sabres are sure making it look that way, taking full control against the Flyers with a six-goal, second-period outburst.
Maxim Afinogenov had a goal and four assists, Thomas Vanek had two goals and two assists, and Derek Roy scored twice for Buffalo, two wins shy of matching its best start set in 1975.
The Sabres have also won 11 straight regular-season games, tying the franchise record established 31 years ago.
Still, no one’s getting too excited.
“Just take it in stride and handling it with maturity,” said Ryan Miller, who stopped 37 shots and denied Mike Richards on a penalty shot in the first period. “We’re not going to celebrate. You could easily be on the other end of a game like that.”
Tell that to the Flyers (1-4-1), who are having difficulty finding their offence and unravelling on defence. It was the most goals they’ve allowed since a 9-4 loss at Pittsburgh on Feb. 9, 2001.
“It’s totally embarrassing,” captain Peter Forsberg said. “It’s not one or two guys, it’s the whole team.”
And no one was pointing fingers at Robert Esche, who allowed nine goals on 37 shots. Making his first start since the season opener, Esche was left helpless by a flat-footed defence that couldn’t keep up against the Sabres’ speedy forwards.
Jeff Carter spoiled Miller’s shutout bid by scoring two minutes into the third period.
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, Vanek sparked the goal surge, converting his own rebound 37 seconds into the middle period. By the time the frame was over, Buffalo had scored six times on 12 shots, converted three of four power-play chances, and ended the period by scoring three times in a 2 1/2-minute span.
The Sabres added three more in the first five minutes of the third period.
After winning their first four games by one-goal margins, and three in shootouts, Buffalo has outscored its last two opponents 16-5. They beat the New York Rangers 7-4 on Saturday.
“We didn’t try to run it up,” said Chris Drury, who scored once to extend his point streak to six games (seven goals and three assists). “Coaches just kept preaching our system, and things just kept kind of clicking.”
Also scoring for the Sabres were Jiri Novotny, Jaroslav Spacek and Henrik Tallinder.
The Flyers have managed just 12 goals in six games.
“I don’t think we’ll self-destruct,” Carter said. “We did all of the self-destructing tonight. Hopefully, this is rock bottom.”
It was the first meeting between the teams since Buffalo beat Philadelphia 7-1 in Game 6 to win last year’s first-round playoff series. And this was reminiscent of Buffalo’s 8-2 drubbing of the Flyers in Game 2 of that series. The Sabres again showed their speed was too much for Philadelphia’s plodding defence.
That was particularly evident when Afinogenov capped the second-period run. The speedy winger went end-to-end, manoeuvred around a flat-footed Derian Hatcher, and jammed the puck past Esche.
Notes: The six goals allowed by the Flyers in the second period matched a franchise worst, last done against New Jersey in March 1993. … The Flyers have failed on their last four penalty shots and are 12-of-33 overall. Miller has not allowed a goal on two penalty shots. The Sabres have yielded 17 goals on 40 chances. … The Sabres’ six-goal period was three short of a franchise record and their most since scoring six against Ottawa in October 1992.