Philadelphia's R.J. Umberger deflects the puck past Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth on Saturday. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres start strongly, fall to Flyers late

BUFFALO – If you’re a glass-is-half-full type, the Sabres did some good things in Saturday’s 4-3 defeat to a weak Philadelphia Flyers team, their 10th consecutive regulation loss.

For the first time in weeks, the Sabres started strongly and showcased a better effort early, taking the lead and dictating much of the play. When the Flyers went up 2-1, they tied it late in the second period. They even scored three goals for the first time in 10 games.

If you’re a glass-is-half-empty type, well, the Sabres lost again. They blew a lead and fell apart late to a team that had been had been blanked in its previous two games and was ripe to be beaten.

The Sabres, who start a five-game road trip tonight in Detroit, have never lost 11 straight games in their 44-year history.

Since Edmonton won a 3-2 shootout in Florida, the Sabres fell to 30th overall in the NHL.

Ouch.

Still, fresh off of Thursday’s 7-0 home shellacking from Minnesota, the Sabres made some baby steps Saturday before a capacity crowd of 19,070 fans inside the First Niagara Center.

“I think we gave a way better effort,” said Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons, who scored twice. “We worked way harder. We wanted this one. It’s just we made mistakes that shouldn’t have been made.”

Sabres coach Ted Nolan added: “At least the effort was way better.”

They most recently lost 10 consecutive games during a 0-9-1 stretch that began last season and ended in October.

Early on, it looked like the streak would end.

Girgensons’ team-leading 12th goal, his first in nine games, opened the scoring 18:51 into the game. The Sabres hadn’t scored first since Dec. 23.

R.J. Umberger’s power-play goal tied it 3:51 into the second period. Mark Streit’s power-play goal put the Flyers up 2-1 at 7:49.

Tyler Ennis’ first goal in eight games and just second in 18 tied it at 19:05.

But the Sabres blew a chance to earn their first win since Dec. 27.

Chris VandeVelde scored 5:54 into the third period. Michael Raffl followed at 8:39.

With goalie Michal Neuvirth off for an extra attacker, Girgensons’ power-play goal made it 4-3.

Nolan hopes the NHL All-Star break later this week “resettles our minds.”

“(If you) get to the basic root of if you compete, at least you compete and put in the effort,” Nolan said.

Nolan can put up with mistakes – 19-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov blew a coverage on VandeVelde’s goal – if his players work hard.

“As long as the energy there and the compete level’s there, that’s all you can ask,” Nolan said. “We’re taxing a lot of guys. A lot of guys are playing a lot of minutes that shouldn’t be playing a lot of minutes.”

Nolan mostly played three lines in the first period, sitting the trio of Cody Hodgson, Phil Varone and Drew Stafford. Hodgson and Varone both played 50 seconds.

“The other guys weren’t going very good,” Nolan said. “We have to send a message to the guys, ‘If you don’t want to work, you won’t play.’”

Hodgson, who played only five minutes, 57 seconds overall, is pointless in his last 11 games and has only two goals and six points all season.

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