BUFFALO — For the first time in 37 days, the Sabres won a hockey game.
Buffalo defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 6-1, on Wednesday night which snapped an 18-game winless streak that dated back to February 25.
“Relief, “said Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour regarding his emotions after the win. “Tonight was a full 60 minutes where everybody was moving and everybody was feeling good and good thing we got a good result tonight.”
The win was the first for interim head coach Don Granato, who took over for former Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger on March 17.
“I was so happy for the guys. To me, that was the biggest enjoyment, “said Granato. “You want your players to be rewarded.”
The Sabres were winless in Granato’s first six games behind the bench, but the drought ended on Wednesday, two days after the Sabres suffered a heartbreaking, 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers. In that game, Buffalo held a 3-0 lead only to watch Philly come storming back in the third period to steal the win.
“It couldn’t have been a better scenario because you played the same team, with the same lead two days later,” said Granato. “We showed that we grew from it.”
The Sabres got the scoring started 9:32 into the first period as Sam Reinhart scored on assists from Kyle Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen. Reinhart’s goal, his 13th of the season, came on a shot from the left circle that deflected off a Flyer and into the net. Reinhart was moved to first line center for Wednesday’s win. It was the first time since the ‘17-’18 season that Reinhart had played center.
“It was fun. I enjoyed it, “said Reinhart regarding his move to the center position. “It was good to come underneath the puck a little more and get a couple different looks.”
Buffalo added to its lead before the period was through, with Curtis Lazar scoring his fifth of the season on a drop pass from Riley Sheahan with 8:01 remaining until the first intermission.
To open the second, Philadelphia got on the board with a tally from Ivan Provorov, his sixth of the year, on a slap shot from the right wing that found its way through traffic and past Buffalo netminder Linus Ullmark just 3:50 into the frame.
With the score 2-1 in the Sabres’ favor, Steven Fogarty regained a two-goal advantage as he scored his first of the season 9:42 into the second on an assist from Ristolainen. Casey Mittelstadt added a tally, his second of the year, with 4:21 remaining in the second on a beautiful pass from Fogarty to increase Buffalo’s lead to 4-1, where it would stay heading into the third.
“We’ve struggled - they score goals and the ball kind keeps rolling,” said Montour about his team’s inability to close games. “But I think the last couple of games - scratch the third period the other night - we’ve stuck together and tried to stay positive.
“A lot of guys on the bench are being more vocal and trying to help out. You go through stretches where guys get pissed off and upset pretty easy but guys are sticking with it and trying to stay positive. And we just went right back at them (tonight).”
Montour added his third and fourth goals of the season to seal the deal in the final period. Ullmark made 31 saves for the Sabres in the win.
“I hope you see progress. That’s what we hope as a coaching staff, “said Granato. “We’re in no position to worry about wins. We just have to get better.”
With that said, Wednesday’s victory was significant for his team, said the Sabres head coach.
“As a coach, you hope it turns for them,” said Granato. “There is no question it’s important to put the streak behind so everybody can move on.”
Buffalo is now 7-23-5 and remains in the cellar of the Eastern Division.
“It was nice to get the win because the players have been so committed,” said Granato. “The leaders have been leaders. Everybody’s worked.”
Philadelphia falls to 17-14-4 and has lost five of its last seven games.
The Sabres look ahead to two matchups with the New York Rangers (16-15-4) on Thursday and Saturday.