Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/20/13
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Thomas Vanek hardly looked like a man who hadn't played NHL hockey in nine months. Vanek had five points (two goals, three assists) to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in the First Niagara Center. Tyler Myers scored the winning goal with just over five minutes remaining and Cody Hodgson gave the Sabres some breathing room with another goal with under four minutes to go. But it was Vanek who stole the show. His five points were a career high and he became the first Sabres player to accomplish the mark since Drew Stafford in January 2008. "He had a good night," Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. "He played well, he moved his feet. I think it's important for us as a line and as a team, when he moves his feet he creates a lot more, brings more energy to the game. I think we've clicked together pretty well in the past and tonight was another example of it." Steve Ott also scored for Buffalo in his first game with the Sabres. Ryan Miller had 27 saves. Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, who fell to 0-2 after an opening-day loss to Pittsburgh. "Bounces are not going our way right now," Giroux said. "It's not the start we've been looking for, two losses in a row. But we'll just have to fight through it and come back." Ilya Bryzgalov turned in a fine effort even with five goals allowed. He had 36 saves. "He's made some big saves and you can't fault him on a couple of the goals ... definitely not Bryz's fault, that's for sure," forward Scott Hartnell said. "We've got to stick behind him, play better in front of him." As could be expected after the lengthy lockout, the game did not get off to a flying start. The teams combined for just two shots through the first 10 minutes. Ott got the Sabres on the board at 11:07 of the first period with a power-play blast from the slot. The Flyers came back with two goals in the first five minutes of the second period. Couturier deflected Kurtis Foster's shot from the point to tie the score 2:23 into the second period and Giroux rifled a slap shot high to Miller's glove side to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead on the power play at 4:57. Vanek tied the score at 2 on a pretty breakaway goal at 15:54 in the second period. After a brief five-on-three power play expired, Stafford found a streaking Vanek down the middle of the ice. Vanek had Bryzgalov down and out on a quick deke to his forehand. The Sabres turned on the pressure in the third period and outshot the Flyers 40-29 overall. Buffalo also showed some of the toughness that the Sabres hope to have this season. After being criticized heavily last year for not sticking up for Miller when he was run over by Boston forward Milan Lucic, Stafford had a rare fight in the second period against Hartnell. Stafford came to the aid of teammate Tyler Ennis, who had taken a questionable hit from Hartnell moments earlier. The Sabres also responded after Miller received a bump in the crease late in the game. "I think over the summer we addressed the fact that we want to be a harder team to play against from top to bottom, every player, doesn't matter who it is," Stafford said. "We're trying to hold each other accountable for that." It was a good start for a team that finished one spot short of the playoffs one year ago. "It was just a pretty solid overall game for our first game in a long time," Pominville said. NOTES: Flyers forward and former Sabres co-captain Danny Briere missed his second game in a row because of a wrist injury. ... Sabres first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko is the sixth 18-year-old (18 years, 254 days) to dress for the Sabres on opening day. Only four players have played for Buffalo on opening day at a younger age: Pierre Turgeon (18 years, 41 days), Tom Barrasso (18 years, 188 days), Phil Housley (18 years, 211 days) and Shawn Anderson (18 years, 244 days). ... The Flyers swept the Sabres last season, going 3-0-1 against Buffalo. ... Philadelphia won the only prior season-opening game between these teams, 2-0 on Oct. 9, 2004. ... This was the first of Buffalo's nine sets of back-to-back games this season; last year, the Sabres had a league-high 21 back-to-back sets. ... This was the 158th meeting between the two teams.
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