PHILADELPHIA - Even after scoring both Philadelphia goals, Jeremy Roenick was quick to credit the Flyers’ defense for the team’s fourth win in five games.
“I think it’s our execution and determination to play stronger defense,” Roenick said.
Robert Esche highlighted the strong defensive performance, finishing with 25 stops and leading the Flyers to a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
Esche picked up his 14th victory of the season, adding to his career high, as Philadelphia moved four points ahead of the idle New Jersey Devils in the Atlantic Division.
“We’re buckling down a little bit more in the neutral zone and in our own zone and playing a stronger defensive style as a team,” Roenick said.
Philadelphia had lost four of its last five home games after starting the season with a 13-3-2 home record.
“Our offense is kicking in and we’re keeping the other team off the score sheet, which is important, Roenick added.”
Ales Kotalik scored for the Sabres, who have dropped four of five and are mired in last place in the Northeast Division.
“I think we might have played our best game in this building in a long time from effort to the standpoint of controlling play,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “It’s tough when you come out of a game like this and have nothing to show for it.”
Roenick scored on the Flyers’ first shot, at 3:19 of the first period, redirecting a shot by Mike Comrie past Buffalo goaltender Mika Noronen.
Kotalik tied the game at 1:03 of the second, scoring on a slap shot from outside the left circle.
“It’s frustrating,” said Jean-Pierre Dumont, who assisted on Kotalik’s goal. “We outchecked them, and scoring chances were in our favor, too, but the puck didn’t want to go in. We kept attacking the net and had some great scoring chances.”
Roenick scored the eventual game-winner at 9:05 of the second on a one-timer from the right circle.
Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock is still waiting for the Flyers to revert to their early season form, when they were putting teams away decisively.
“We were just steamrolling,” Hitchcock said. “We wanted it all the time. We wanted to take a 2-1 lead and make it 7-1. That’s the mind-set I want to get back to.”
Notes: The Sabres were playing the fourth game of a five-game trip, which ends at Carolina on Sunday. ... Kotalik scored his first goal in 15 games. ... Noronen was unbeaten in two previous starts against Philadelphia. ... Mark Recchi moved into sixth place on the Flyers’ career assist list when he helped set up Roenick’s second goal. Recchi has 367 assists and moved past Rod Brind’Amour. ... The Flyers, who went into the game with the NHL’s best power play at home, with 22 goals in 88 chances, went 0-for-3 with a man-advantage. ... Philadelphia took the season series with Buffalo, 2-1-1.
Live Extra: Los Angeles' Tyler Toffoli sneaked a backhander past Antti Niemi, leveling the score after San Jose's Dan Boyle netted a power-play goal less than two minutes into the game.
PHT: Detroit scored four unanswered goals to top Chicago 4-1 on Saturday. The Western semifinals are now level at one game apiece. Game 3 is on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Video: NHL from NBC Sports
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