Flyers Return Home with 3-2 Win Over Buffalo Sabres
Tuesday, January 7, 2003
By David W. Unkle
After a successful West Coast road trip, the Flyers returned home tonight to take on the hockey's version of the Cincinnati Bengals. Once again played down to the level of their opponent and the Philly fans let them know it at the end of the first period. Tonight's 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres (10-23-5-2, 27 points) was anything but textbook hockey but for the Flyers (21-10-8-1, 51 points), it still keeps them atop the Atlantic Division.
I know it wasn't pretty but that's the sign of a good hockey club when you can win when you're not at your best, said Flyers' Head Coach Ken Hitchcock in his post-game press conference. There are so many things that go on in your life that are non-hockey...it's hard to get your focus, said Hitchcock.
Hitchcock’s assessment was right on target; a listless Flyers’ first period ended with the Sabres’ Ales Kotalik spin-around slap shot at 19:45. The rookie’s ninth goal of the season was also only the ninth even-strength goal in the opening period allowed by the Flyers all season.
Kotalik put the Sabres’ up 2-0 with a power play goal at 11:04 of the second period and the Flyers’ sensed the need to shake things up.
After Todd Fedoruk and the Sabres’ Rob Ray serving roughing minors and Curtis Brown in the box for obstruction-hooking, the Flyers had a four-on-three advantage and quickly sacrificed Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller.
Keith Primeau’s goal just nine seconds into the power play seemed to breathe some life into the Flyers and awoke the fans from thinking about Saturday night’s Eagles game.
Jeremy Roenick knotted the score at 2-2 with his 13th of the season at 19:33 of the second. It was a good play by Recchi to cycle it behind and I knew Williams was going back in front, said Roenick. We got a good break and the puck came right back to me and I was able to get it into the net…going in tied 2-2 was a big lift for us.
Justin Williams’ eighth goal of the season at 9:12 of the third period (and his first goal at home of the season) proved to be the game winner. Williams’ shot from the right face-off circle beat Miller high to his glove side.
Three things gave us energy: (Keith) Primeau’s goal, Fedoruk’s fight, and (Jeremy) Roenick’s goal…they really energized our team…our bench got lively and we got into the game, said Hitchcock.
Some complacency slips into your game (returning home from a long road trip) because you are back in your normal surroundings, said Primeau. We accomplished a lot on the road; we raised the bar for ourselves again and we did not want to stake a step back with a loss tonight.
When you have successful road trip, the last thing you want to do is come home and not do that well, said Esche, who stopped 21 of the 23 shots he faced tonight to earn his eighth win of the season (8-2-3).
STARS OF THE GAME
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