BUFFALO, NY (AP) – Brian Elliott stopped 23 shots to rule out the Buffalo Sabers for the second time this season as he led the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-0 victory on Saturday.
The Flyers were boosted by a reconstituted roster in which four players returned after spending two weeks in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. They included Scott Laughton, who scored a breakaway goal to make it 3-0 late in the second period.
Sean Couturier had a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to five games, in which he has four goals and five assists, and Shayne Gostisbehere has also scored. Philadelphia improved to 3-2-2 in its last seven years and won games for the first time in five years game winning streak to end in January.
Elliott has improved to 5-1 this season and took his career record to 15-2-2 with four shutouts against the Sabers, including a 40-save exit in a 3-0 win on January 19.
The Sabers fell to 2-6-1 in their last nine games and played their second game without Captain Jack Eichel, classified day to day with a lower body injury.
Carter Hutton stopped 36 shots in place of Linus Ullmark, who will miss at least a month with a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of a 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey on Thursday.
Jeff Skinner’s return to the lineup after three games off the bench made no difference. The 11th-year forward in the second season of an eight-year, $ 72 million contract has just one in 15 assist games this season, and now has not scored in 19 games dating from last year.
Couturier opened the scoring at 14:22 after teammate Travis Sanheim intercepted Henri Jokiharju’s clearance attempt on the right boards. Sanheim stepped towards the middle and fed Couturier into the high lunge from where his shot peeked at defenseman Brandon Montour’s glove and dug over Hutton’s left shoulder.
The Flyers then put the game on the ice at the end of the second period when Gostisbehere, on a partial break of the left wing, and Laughton scored 4:21 apart.
Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek and Oskar Lindblom each had assists in their first game since entering the COVID-19 protocol almost three weeks ago. Justin Braun has also returned to training. This leaves Travis Konecny as the only Flyer remaining on the COVID-19 roster after the team had up to seven players listed as recently as February 17.
Buffalo hosted defenseman Rismus Ristolainen, who missed seven games after facing a severe episode of COVID-19.
The Sabers were 0 of 3 with a men’s advantage failing to produce a power play goal for just the fifth time this season. Buffalo entered the game with the NHL’s best power play unit and had converted 16 of his last 38 chances.
KRUEGER ON SKINNER
A day after citing responsibility and team culture as the reason to bench Skinner, Sabers coach Ralph Krueger was hopeful the player could grow from the experience.
“Just build on the conversations we’ve had this week and the hard work he’s put in a tough position,” Krueger said. “I hope this turns out to be a good little reunion to start a great rest of the season for Jeff.”
Skinner performed on a line alongside Riley Sheahan and Casey Mittelstadt.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux played his 904th career game, ahead of Bill Barber and occupying second place on the list of teams led by Bobby Clarke (1144 games). … Sabers forward Curtis Lazar made his 300th career game.
The teams finish two series games in Buffalo on Sunday.
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