BUFFALO, N.Y. – Vincent Lecavalier’s sore back is getting better. So is his self-confidence.
Lecavalier capped a topsy-turvy finish by scoring with 15 seconds left, sending the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. It was his first goal since Nov. 27, a 22-game span that included nine games he missed with a back injury.
“It felt good. They’ve been hard to come by since I got back from my injury,” Lecavalier said. “Sometimes a goal like that will kind of, I don’t want to say jumpstart, but get more confidence and keep going.”
The goal came during a scramble in the Sabres end and after Lecavalier missed on two other chances in the final 2-plus minutes. After his initial shot just missed the net, teammate Matt Read dug out a loose puck to the left of the Buffalo net and fed Lecavalier, who one-timed a shot from the left circle.
The goal capped a furious finish in which the teams traded leads twice by combining to score four times in the final 6:32.
Scott Hartnell had a goal and two assists, while Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek also scored in helping Philadelphia snap a two-game skid. Wayne Simmonds had two assists for the Flyers (24-19-4), who improved to 8-3 in their past 11 games.
It was a game in which the Flyers twice rallied from one-goal deficits, and won for the eighth time this season when trailing in the third period.
“Never give up, that’s probably the biggest thing,” said Hartnell, who has five goals and eight assists in his past 13 games. “We showed a lot of character, especially late there coming back.”
The Sabres, by comparison, wilted in what proved to be yet another reflection of why the young and patchwork team’s NHL-worst record dropped to 13-27-5.
Cody Hodgson and Matt D’Agostini each had a goal and assist for Buffalo, which had an eight-game home point streak snapped at 6-0-2. Tyler Ennis also scored and Steve Ott set up two for the Sabres.
“Missed assignments, not determined enough to battle for the puck, spinning and turning off hits, not getting an inch in the lanes, all of the above,” interim coach Ted Nolan said, assessing what went wrong. “We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do at the end.”
Nolan could add undisciplined penalties to the list. The Flyers converted two of six power-play chances, including Hartnell’s goal that put Philadelphia ahead 3-2 with Buffalo’s Zenon Konopka off for goalie interference.
The Sabres squandered a rare offensive outburst, and blew a chance to win consecutive games for only the third time this season. Buffalo managed three goals in regulation for the first time in 10 games and only the ninth time this season.
Buffalo also wasted what was a solid outing by backup goalie Jhonas Enroth, who stopped 29 shots but got little help in front on all four Flyers goals. That included Lecavalier’s goal, during which a Sabres defender pushed a Flyers player into Enroth.
Enroth did make a highlight-reel save on Claude Giroux 12 minutes into the first period, when he dived to his right and punched his glove out to stop the shot.
The goalie also robbed Lecavalier with 2:23 left, when the forward’s centring pass from a bad angle struck Sabres defenceman Mike Weber in front. The puck fluttered toward the net before Enroth dropped his stick and managed to smother it in the crease.
NOTES: Sabres D Tyler Myers is eligible to return at Toronto on Wednesday after sitting out the third and final game of his suspension for an illegal check to the head of New Jersey forward Dainius Zubrus. … Read returned after missing six games with concussion-like symptoms. … Sabres President Pat LaFontaine said he thinks the team and rookie centre Mikhail Grigorenko are “on the same page” regarding the 2012 first-round pick’s development after the player initially balked at reporting to his Canadian junior team in Quebec City last weekend. LaFontaine said Grigorenko needs to develop by continuing to play, which would not have happened if he stayed in Buffalo with the 17-day Olympic break approaching next month. “We’re doing what we think is best to develop our players,” LaFontaine said. “I really believe under all the circumstances, that (Quebec City) is the best place for him.” … D’Agostini earned his 100th career point with an assist onHodgson’s game-opening goal.