The Buffalo Sabers were angry at the first intermission Saturday and they sure got even.
In a 2-0 hole after a sloppy opening 20 minutes, the Sabers roared back for four goals in a dominant second period. They went on to hold off the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, at KeyBank Center for their second win in the last three games.
Buffalo (28-38-11) got power-play goals from Kyle Okposo and Tage Thompson and even-strength goals from Rasmus Dahlin and Vinnie Hinostroza in the frame to equal their season high in one period. They outshot Philadelphia, 18-3, and left the ice to a huge ovation from the crowd of 11,046.
The Sabers also had a four-goal first period in their 6-3 win over the Flyers here on Jan. 22. The last time they had two periods of at least four against one team in the same season was in 2009-10 against Carolina.
The Flyers have lost nine of their last 11 and a second period in which they were outshot by Buffalo, 18-3, pretty much showed their warts after they jumped ahead by two goals in the first four minutes.
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Rasmus Dahlin was fired up after absorbing a hard hit into the boards from Travis Konecny and taking a retaliatory slashing penalty. Alex Tuch and Philly defenseman Travis Sanheim were nailed for coincidental minors. Chirping was all over the ice and Kyle Okposo was buried in the knee by a Tage Thompson slapshot and couldn’t finish the period.
“It wasn’t us. I wasn’t happy,” Okposo said. “I was steaming inside and I was pretty pumped up. And if I didn’t take that shot, I might have lost my marbles a little bit after the first, but it was just great to see everybody kind of band together and not use that energy for negativity.”
That was essentially coach Don Granato’s brief message: Don’t get even. play better.
“End of first period we were emotional, frustrated,” Dahlin admitted. “So Don was talking a lot that we have to go come back and not be emotional. We have use our emotion to our advantage and that’s what we did.”
Okposo opened the scoring for the Sabers by banging home a Peyton Krebs feed for his 20th of the season at 3:17. Dahlin Cashed No. 11 off a Jeff Skinner cross ice pass at 8:27 to tie the game. Konecny beat Craig Anderson high under the crossbar with a soft goal at 14:27 but Buffalo forged ahead. Vinnie Hinostroza potted a rebound at 15:36 and Thompson pounded home No. 34 at 5:58 PM to snap the tie.
Okposo celebrated his 34th birthday by getting to 20 goals for the first time since 2015-16 with the New York Islanders. He just had 11 combined the last two seasons.
“It’s a nice number for sure. It’s my first time in Buffalo doing that,” Okposo said. “It’s been a fun year to watch this group grow and to feel like I had a hand in it. And to feel like I’m a part of it. And it’s been just a ton of fun playing with these guys. Donnie came in and allowed me to just play free and use the skills that got me here and that I’ve used my whole career. And so yeah, definitely a nice feather in the cap.”
“It’s huge. He’s a leader. He came back,” Dahlin said. “He couldn’t almost move, so a huge game for him. And we all are super happy for him. He’s a role model for us.”
Granato said he kept his intermission talk brief, stepped back and watch his team go to work.
“They took over collectively, and they were extremely responsible individually,” Granato said. “We had guys even going at each other on the bench a little bit, but in a way you would as your brother. You go at it, and then the next shift they’re out there and they’re actually five times better than they were last shift. Because they push each other the right way. And that’s fun to watch.”
Here are some other observations on the game:
Rookie Owen Power continues to impress on the Buffalo blueline. In his third game, he had an even rating over a team-high 22 minutes, 59 seconds of ice time, with 4:18 of that on the penalty kill and time also spent at the end of the game when the Flyers went 6 on 5. He had no shots on goal, fanning on a good setup from Thompson on a third-period short-handed chance.
“I can’t mention Owen without mentioning (Henri) Jokiharju, without mentioning Dahlin, without mentioning (Mattias) Samuelsson,” Granato said. ” … We’re at a point in our season where the guys have formed together as a team, and they support each other really well. So to insert a talented player such as Owen, there’s a lot of support around there. That put me at ease to put him in all these situations.”
Granato went with the reshuffled forward lines he unveiled at practice Friday, and there were a lot of just-missed moments with the puck in the first period before the groupings found their way in the second. Skinner and Thompson stayed together and were joined by Victor Olofsson on the top line. Casey Mittelstadt centered Krebs and Tuch, Dylan Cozens was between Okposo and Rasmus Asplund, and Zemgus Girgensons played with Anders Bjork and Hinostroza.
• The Sabers have won four straight over the Flyers for the first time since they won five in a row from Oct. 10, 2001-Oct. 22, 2002. They have their first six-game point streak against Philly (4-0-2) since going 5-0-1 Dec. 7, 1989-March 24, 1991.
• Anderson made 18 saves to improve to 16-12-2 on the season and won his 307th career game. He’s one behind retired Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask for 33rd on the all-time list.
• Former Sabers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (upper body) was one of several key Flyers to miss the game due to injury.
• The biggest cheer in the first period was easy. It was when Bills quarterback Josh Allen was put on the Jumbotron and the fans then sang the “Shout” song.
The teams headed to Philly after the game and they’ll meet again at 5 pm Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.