Flyers hit new low, fall to Buffalo, 6-1, as Sabres end 18-game losing streak

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Head coach Ralph Krueger of the Buffalo Sabres handles the bench against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on February 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. - Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America/TNS

The Flyers are happy to say goodbye to March. Very happy.

They chased games all month, getting outscored by a ridiculous 27-9 first-period margin in 17 March games.

They fell into an early two-goal hole Wednesday en route to a 6-1 loss to Buffalo that probably is their low point in their uneven season, though there are plenty of other worthy candidates.

The worst-in-the-NHL Sabres ended an 18-game losing streak (0-15-3), notching their first win since a 4-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 23.

The Flyers finished with a 6-10-1 record in March, during which they allowed 75 goals (4.4 per game), the most in any month in franchise history. The month included 9-0 and 8-3 losses to the Rangers, and a 6-1 defeat to the Islanders.

At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if 20-year-old defenseman Cam York, who signed an entry-level deal Wednesday with the Flyers, soon made his NHL debut. Hey, something needs to change.

The Flyers remained three points behind Boston for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division; the Bruins have three games in hand, and the teams meet three times next week.

Defenseman Brandon Montour had two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill -- one into an empty net after the Flyers pulled their goalie -- for the Sabres.

Sam Reinhart and Curtis Lazar scored 2:27 apart to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead before the game was 12 minutes old.

Reinhart’s wide shot deflected off defenseman Justin Braun’s leg and past goalie Brian Elliott. He has five of his 13 goals this season against the defensive-challenged Flyers.

An all-alone Lazar, the trailer on the play, took a pass from Riley Sheahan and put a shot through Elliott’s legs to make it 2-0 with 8:01 to go in the first. The play started when Sheahan blocked Braun’s shot down the other end, and headed down ice ahead of the pack before making a spinning backpass to Lazar as the Flyers did a poor job of backchecking.

Two nights earlier, the Flyers overcame a 3-0 third-period deficit and jolted the Sabres in overtime, 4-3. In short, it was an ugly win.

“Hopefully, it’s a little bit of a wake-up call,” Elliott said before Wednesday’s matchup, adding that the Flyers “threw our sticks on the ice and maybe thought it was going to be easier.”

The Flyers played better in the first period Wednesday than Monday, but defensive breakdowns and some bad luck contributed to their 2-0 deficit: Sean Couturier hit the post 10 seconds into the game, and one of Buffalo’s goals was going wide before it deflected off Braun.

But the Flyers got some luck of their own early in the second period as Ivan Provorov’s point drive deflected off the backside of Buffalo defenseman Montour and into the net, cutting the deficit to 2-1 with 16:10 remaining in the stanza. Couturier set up the goal, giving him points in five straight games.

The Flyers, who were aiming for their first three-game winning streak since late February, had the first 11 shots in the second period, but goalie Linus Ullmark stood tall, except for the fluke goal.

Buffalo, capitalizing on loose defensive play (sound familiar?), then scored two goals from in tight to chase Elliott and make it 4-1 with 4:21 remaining in the second. .Alex Lyon replaced Elliott and made his first NHL appearance of the season.

Steven Fogarty, 27, scored from the doorstep -- Erik Gustafsson and Connor Bunnaman failed to move him out of harm’s way -- for the first NHL goal of his 22-game career. Casey Mittelstadt, who was wide open, then scored from deep inside the right circle to increase the lead to 4-1.

The Sabres, despite some key injuries, were on their way to ending the 14th-longest winless streak in NHL history.

Goodbye, March.