The Buffalo Sabers were angry during the first intermission on Saturday and they definitely got their revenge.
Down 2-0 after a botched 20-minute opener, the Sabers roared for four goals in a dominating second period. They then held off the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, at KeyBank Center for their second victory 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 tie their season-high in one period. They outscored Philadelphia, 18-3, and left the ice to a huge ovation from the crowd of 11,046.
The Sabers also scored four first-period goals in their 6-3 win over the Flyers here on Jan. 22. The last time they had two periods of at least four against a team in the same season was in 2009-10 against Carolina. .
The Flyers have lost nine of their last 11 games and a second period in which they were outscored Buffalo 18-3 showed their warts after taking a two-goal lead in the first four minutes.
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Rasmus Dahlin was fired up after absorbing a hard hit in the boards from Travis Konecny and taking a retaliatory penalty. Alex Tuch and Philadelphia defender Travis Sanheim were nailed for incidental minors. The chirp was all over the ice and Kyle Okposo was buried in the knee by a slapshot from Tage Thompson and couldn’t finish the period.
“It wasn’t us. I wasn’t happy,” Okposo said. “I was smoking inside and was pretty bloated. And if I hadn’t taken this pic I might have lost my marbles a bit after the first one, but it was just awesome to see everything the world to band together and not use that energy for negativity.”
That was basically coach Don Granato’s brief message: don’t get revenge. Play better.
“At the end of the first half, we were emotional, frustrated,” admitted Dahlin. “So Don was talking a lot about us having to come back and not be emotional. We used our emotions to our advantage and that’s what we did.”
Okposo opened the scoring for the Sabers by hitting home a pass from Peyton Krebs for his 20th of the season at 3:17. Dahlin cashed in the No. 11 on a cross pass from Jeff Skinner at 8:27 to tie the game. Konecny beat Craig Anderson high under the crossbar with a soft goal at 14:27 but Buffalo took the lead. Vinnie Hinostroza scored a rebound at 15:36 and Thompson beat No. 34 at 17:58 to break the tie.
Okposo celebrated his 34th birthday by scoring 20 goals for the first time since 2015-16 with the New York Islanders. He had just 11 combined the past two seasons.
“It’s a good number for sure. It’s the first time I’ve done that in Buffalo,” Okposo said. “It’s been a fun year watching this band grow and feeling like I had a part to play. And feeling like I’m a part of it. And it’s been a ton of fun playing with these guys. Donnie is came in and allowed me to play for free and use the skills that got me here that I’ve used my entire career and so yeah, definitely a nice feather in the hat.
“It’s huge. He’s a leader. He’s come back,” Dahlin said. “He almost couldn’t move, so a huge game for him. And we’re all super happy for him. He’s a role model for us.”
Granato said he kept his intermission speech short, stood back and watched his team get to work.
“They took over collectively and they were extremely responsible individually,” Granato said. “We even had some guys who were arguing a bit on the bench, but in a way you would do it like your brother. You go there and then the next shift they’re there and they’re actually five times better than they were last quarter. Because they push each other in the right direction. And it’s fun to watch.
Here are some other observations about the game:
Rookie Owen Power continues to impress on the Buffalo blue line. In his third game, he tied the game on a team-high 22 minutes and 59 seconds of ice time, including 4:18 shorthanded and time also spent late in the game when the Flyers went 6 of 5. He had no shots on goal, stoking a good setup from Thompson on a shorthanded third-period 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 as a team, and they support each other really well. So to insert a talented player like Owen, there’s a lot of support around us. That makes me puts him at ease to put him in all these situations.”
Granato went with the revamped forward lines he unveiled in practice Friday, and there were plenty of missed moments with the puck in the first period before the splits found their way in the second. Skinner and Thompson stayed together and were joined by Victor Olofsson on the front row. 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 in a row against the Flyers for the first time since winning five in a row from October 10, 2001 to October 1. Dec. 22, 2002. They have their first six-game point streak against Philadelphia (4-0-2) since going 5-0-1 from Dec. 7, 1989, to March 24, 1991.
• Anderson made 18 saves to improve to 16-12-2 this season and won his 307th career game. He’s one behind retired Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask at No. 33 on the all-time roster.
• Former Sabers defender Rasmus Ristolainen (upper body) was one of the main Flyers to miss the game through injury.
• The biggest cheer of the first period was easy. It was when Bills quarterback Josh Allen was put on the Jumbotron and fans sang the song “Shout” afterwards.
The teams headed to Philadelphia after the game and will meet at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.