PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Flyers picked up their defence and their drive to snap their losing streak. Playing the lowly Buffalo Sabres helped, too.
Brayden Schenn scored two goals, and the Flyers broke a four-game skid with a 5-2 win over Buffalo on Sunday night.
Philadelphia, 0-2-2 in its previous four games, maintained third place in the Metropolitan Division—two points ahead of Columbus—by winning for the second time in eight games (2-4-2).
With four games remaining, the Flyers trail the second-place New York Rangers by two points, but have a game in hand.
“Our intensity was up and guys were skating and working right away in the game,” Philadelphia coach Craig Berube said. “It was important for the confidence level just to get guys’ spirits back up.”
The Flyers hadn’t played poorly during the losing streak, which included two defeats to Boston and one to St. Louis. The Bruins and Blues lead their respective conferences.
Schenn, Vincent Lecavalier and Zac Rinaldo scored second-period goals to put Philadelphia ahead 4-0. Matt Read also scored and Mark Streit had three assists.
“I thought we played a solid team game, defence-first mentality,” Schenn said. “Two points is key. We just have to worry about ourselves and worry about the two points each night.”
Cory Hodgson and Mike Weber scored third-period goals for Buffalo, which lost its sixth straight road game and fell to 2-13-1 in its last 16 overall.
The Sabres, assured of finishing with the fewest points in the NHL, have scored eight goals during their road skid.
Buffalo, already missing 10 players due to injuries, might have lost another as Chad Ruhwedel sustained a concussion on a third-period hit by Rinaldo, who was given a match penalty for the blow to Ruhwedel’s head.
“There’s no big brother for them,” Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said of his inexperienced players. “They have to sink or swim, and certain games like this, it’s going to catch up to us.”
Rinaldo, who entered with a team-high 137 penalty minutes, racked up 16 on Sunday and could face an NHL suspension.
“I had a lot of speed going at him. I put my shoulder down, and as he shot the puck my shoulder hit him clearly,” Rinaldo said. “Proof is in the pudding right there. I shouldn’t have done it. There’s no need for it. We’re up 4-0, but it’s part of the game.
“That always happens with me. I get on a good streak and then something bad always happens. I try not to think about it too much.”
Read got Philadelphia on the board 6 1/2 minutes into the game by scoring on a rebound. After Buffalo’s Cory Conacher turned the puck over, Streit fired a slap shot that caromed off the post to the slot, where a wide-open Read unleashed a wrister past rookie goalie Nathan Lieuwen.
“As soon as (Read) got that goal, it gave us a boost and we started scoring goals,” Schenn said.
The Flyers turned the game into a rout with three second-period goals. Rinaldo, known more for pesky play than scoring, netted his second goal of the season when his wrist shot went off Lieuwen’s glove and trickled over the line to make it 2-0 with 12:20 left.
Schenn deflected in Streit’s slap shot on the power play with 5:40 remaining, snapping the Flyers’ 0-for-12 skid on the man-advantage and stretching the lead to three goals.
Lecavalier then put a shot above Lieuwen’s right shoulder just over 1 1/2 minutes later from the top of the right circle. Mason earned an assist on the goal for his first point of the season and seventh of his eight-year career.
Schenn scored his second goal with 4:50 left in the game when he fired a wrist shot past Lieuwen’s glove.
Lieuwen, making his fifth career start, had 32 saves.
“When you have an experienced team in front of an inexperienced goaltender, there’s positions where you cover up for the mistakes,” Nolan said. “They don’t have to get shots from all over. It’s one of those situations where it is what it is, and they’re getting a lot of work.”
NOTES: The Sabres were without wingers Drew Stafford (33 points) and Chris Stewart (26), who entered ranked third and fifth in team scoring. Also out were Buffalo’s top two goalies, Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth. … Philadelphia swept the season series 3-0 and won its fifth straight at home against Buffalo and eighth in 10 games overall. … Flyers RW Steve Downie (lower body) missed his eighth straight game. … Philadelphia will next play at lowly Florida on Tuesday and then face Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, which have both clinched post-season berths, on the road before Sunday’s home finale against Carolina. … Weber’s goal was his first in 64 games this season.