Jack Quinn scored two goals Friday. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

UPL, Jack Quinn and rare timeout help Sabres beat Flyers, stay in playoff chase

BUFFALO – Three goals on the first 10 shots, a robust shooting percentage of 30, will cover up some problems. So will terrific goaltending.

The Sabres illustrated that Friday in defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2, a critical win that moved them to within four points of the second wild card spot.

While the Flyers opened up a huge shot advantage early, the Sabres made their limited chances count on goalie Ivan Fedotov, who made his first NHL start, and received stellar netminding from Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

That combination help them earn their second straight victory and keep their slim playoff chances alive with five games remaining.

“It wasn’t a perfect game today, but … we kind of battled through it,” said Luukkonen, who made 32 saves.

The turning point came 9:07 into the second, when Noah Cates tied the game at 1 after the Sabres’ fourth line got hemmed in their own zone for about a minute. Following that brutal shift, the Flyers held an 11-1 shot advantage in the period.

Coach Don Granato, who has been reluctant to call timeouts early, used one and lit into the Sabres.

The Sabres scored two goals before the period ended – defenseman Rasmus Dahlin put them up 2-1 at 14:51 and winger Jack Quinn tallied the first of his two at 19:54 – and outshot the Flyers 7-2.

“That timeout was big for us,” said Dahlin, who joined Phil Housley as the only Buffalo defensemen to score 19 or more goals in a season. “We just went back to the simple stuff. We were trying to complicate things when they started pushing.”

Luukkonen said the timeout was “the right call.”

“I feel like it’s not always what they say about doing it, it’s more about the message it sends that you are taking a timeout at that point in the game,” he said. “I feel like we kind of flipped the switch at that point in the game.”

Quinn scored again 13:59 into the third period, restoring the Sabres’ two-goal lead following Owen Tippett’s goal at 9:19. He just missed hitting an empty net late to record a hat trick before the crowd of 15,783 fans in KeyBank Center.

“It hasn’t been an easy season or offseason for him,” Luukkonen said. “How he played today was unbelievable. How he showed up today and how he showed up since coming back from injury is unbelievable.”

For Quinn, who has battled two long-term injuries this season, the goals felt special. He hadn’t scored since returning from a lower-body injury last week.

“Scoring’s always a great feeling and probably even better after the injuries this year and being out of the lineup,” said Quinn, who has played just 22 games this season.

Quinn’s exploits should give the Sabres a little more hope as they try to end their 12-year playoff drought.

They got a lot of help Friday, as the New York Rangers beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 and Carolina Hurricanes downed the Washington Capitals 4-3.

Right now, the free-falling Flyers, who have lost six straight games (0-4-2), own the Eastern Conference’s last wild card spot (83 points). The Sabres (79 points) trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by two points and Detroit and Washington by three.

The three teams ahead of the Sabres each have one game in hand.

The Sabres face the Red Wings on the road Sunday afternoon in a game that will boost or possibly extinguish their playoff chances.

Granato said he wants his team to simply “stay right in the moment.’

“The urgency is the moment at hand and that’s probably helped us focus,” he said.

Center Tage Thompson’s nifty goal – he grabbed linemate JJ Peterka’s pass and deked Fedotov – opened the scoring in the first, a period in which the Flyers outshot the Sabres 10-4.

“The first goal was beautiful,” said Granato, whose team registered just 19 shots on goal. “Just knowing the group, they thought it was going to be easy because it was easy at the start. Very easy at the start. Then we got outworked for a good segment there against a hell of a team that is a very competitive group. And I liked the response late, specifically the third period. Thought we elevated where we needed to.”

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