Thomas Vanek was the catalyst for the Sabres’ offense on Sunday, tallying a career high five points (2 G, 3 A) in Buffalo’s 5-2 victory over Philadelphia at the First Niagara Center.
Vanek’s 5-point game was the first for a Sabres player since Drew Stafford did it against Atlanta on January 18th, 2008.
With the loss, the Flyers dropped to 0-2 on the season, but the score was not indicative of how the game went. With six minutes remaining in the third period, the teams were knotted at two, until Tyler Myers buried the game-winning goal with 5:03 left on the clock.
Cody Hodgson added a goal of his own a couple of minutes later, and Vanek sealed the game with an empty netter to end the day.
In his Buffalo debut, Steve Ott scored on his first shot to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. Ott took a pass from Jason Pominville and ripped a shot past Ilya Bryzgalov on the power play.
“It felt good to put that Buffalo Sabres jersey on and to earn that jersey,” Ott said.
Momentum shifted in the second period when Philadelphia scored twice to jump ahead. Sean Couturier beat Miller with a slap shot to tie the game at one. Just a few minutes later, Claude Giroux connected for a power play goal, putting the Flyers ahead, 2-1.
Late in the second period and with the man advantage, Drew Stafford fed Thomas Vanek a breakaway pass, and Vanek deked out Bryzgalov and netted his first of the season, tying the game at two.
A bit later, Drew Stafford stuck up for his teammates and dropped the gloves with Scott Hartnell. Although Stafford took a few punches, Hartnell was the one that went down.
“What [Stafford] did was awesome, said Lindy Ruff. “Those are the types of things that bring your team together.”
The Sabres are now 6-1-1 in season openers since the lockout and Ryan Miller, who has started in each of those games, finished the day with 27 saves on 29 shots. At the other end, Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 36 of 40.
Mikhail Grigorenko finished the day with a -1 rating and two shots.
The Sabres went 0-3-1 against the Flyers last season, but found a way to beat them today in the first of three regular season matchups.
“It’s one team I really like to beat and one team I really hate to lose to, so I feel pretty good right now,” Ruff said.
The Sabres will head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs monday at 7 p.m. Three of the next four games will be on the road, starting on Monday.