BUFFALO, N.Y. — Linus Ullmark stopped 31 shots and the Buffalo Sabres snapped an 18-game skid — the NHL’s longest in 17 years — with a 6-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.
Defenceman Rasmus Dahlin was the first off the bench as the final horn sounded and led a line of Sabres players high-fiving Ullmark in an arena without fans.
It was the first win for Buffalo since a 4-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 23, and ended an 0-15-3 streak. The slump was tied for the league’s 14th longest, and worst since the Pittsburgh Penguins had a 0-17-1 stretch during the 2003-04 season.
The Sabres also snapped a 0-9-2 home skid, one short of matching a franchise record set during the 1990-91 season. Buffalo won for just the third time at home, and first since a 4-3 shootout win over the Devils on Jan. 30.
Steven Fogarty scored his first career goal and added an assist, and defenceman Brandon Montour sealed the win by scoring short-handed goals 37 seconds apart, the first into an empty net.
Two nights after squandering a 3-0 lead in the third period of a 4-3 overtime loss to Flyers, the Sabres showed no signs of lingering after-effects.
Sam Reinhart and Curtis Lazar scored 2:27 apart in the opening period to stake Buffalo to a 2-0 lead. After Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov scored 3:50 into the second period, Buffalo responded by closing the period with goals from Fogarty and Casey Mittelstadt.
Mittelstadt’s goal, a softie which beat Brian Elliott through the legs, chased the Flyers goalie after he allowed four goals on 16 shots.
The win was the first under interim coach Don Granato, who took over after Ralph Krueger was fired March 17 during a calamitous season that is likely to end with Buffalo extending its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th consecutive year.
Coming off consecutive wins for the first time in a month, the Flyers’ inconsistencies turned up again in dropping to 6-10-1 in their past 17. The slump has dropped them into fifth in the East Division.
Elliott, who stopped 29 shots on Monday and shut out Buffalo twice already this season, dropped to 17-3-2 for his career against the Sabres.
With Carter Hart relegated to practice-only duty to see if the third-year starter can shake off a season-long funk, Alex Lyon finished the game for the Flyers in his first appearance of the season. He made nine saves on 10 shots.
Buffalo was coming off consecutive games in which it blew leads in a failed bid to end the drought. On Saturday in Boston, the Sabres blew two one-goal leads in a 3-2 loss to the Bruins. Then came the meltdown on Monday, in which Sean Couturier tied the game with 1:29 left, and Provorov sealed it 42 seconds into overtime.
It was an outing Dahlin chalked up to the team panicking.
Rather than give in to frustration, Granato has preached attention to detail and the team building off the experience in learning what went wrong.
This time the Sabres made their lead stick, even after Provorov’s shot from left point banked in off Montour, or while being outshot 11-0 through the first nine minutes of the second.
Fogarty scored on Buffalo’s second shot of the frame after being set up alone in front at the 9:42 mark. Mittelstadt made it 4-1 six minutes later, after being set up alone in the right circle.
Flyers defenceman Justin Braun had a forgettable first period. Reinhart opened the scoring at 9:32 when his shot from the right circle banked in off Braun. Lazar made it 2-0 when he converted an odd-man rush after Braun’s shot from the blue line was blocked by Riley Sheahan.
GOSTISBEHERE STILL HERE
The Flyers placed Shayne Gostisbehere on their taxi squad after the regular defenceman cleared waivers earlier in the day. Coach Alain Vigneault said the team made the move to free up space in order to allow forwards Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick to get a much-needed rest.
The Flyers used the free spot to call up forwards Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski and defenceman Sam Morin from the taxi squad.
“I think for them mentally and physically, it’s going to be beneficial and it’ll be beneficial for our team,” Vigneault said, noting Lindblom and Patrick are getting two days off from practice.
Rookie centre Dylan Cozens is expected to miss a week after sustaining an upper-body injury after being checked heavily into the boards by Flyers defenceman Phillippe Myers during the first period on Monday. Defenceman Jacob Bryson returned after missing one game with an upper-body injury.
Flyers: At the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Sabres: Open two-game series against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
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John Wawrow, The Associated Press