It took a whole game's work, but the Buffalo Sabres successfully skated 60 minutes with the Flyers and earned a victory at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
The Flyers got off to a quick two-goal lead in the first period, but Buffalo battled back early in the second period to pull things even. Philadelphia, once again, pulled ahead in the third, but some late goals from the Sabres provided the boost they'd need to get out of this one in regulation.
Let's go through three observations from Sunday afternoon's game:
1.) Skinner surging in new line role
With injuries piling up for the Sabres, the team has had to make some moves to their existing lineup.
That's provided an opportunity for Jeff Skinner to get more involved in the offense, and he made his minutes count on Sunday afternoon.
Skinner re-created a play that he and Sabres captain Jack Eichel made with some success a couple of seasons ago, this time with Skinner taking the faceoff rather than receiving the pass off it. Skinner beat his man between the legs and immediately found Sam Reinhart from the faceoff dot. Reinhart fired it in behind Carter Hart to cut the Flyers' lead to 2-1.
In the third period, it was Skinner around the net causing trouble that lead to his goal to tie things up at 3-3. Skinner put in a tough shift around the net, facing contact from Flyers captain Claude Giroux, which inadvertently caused Skinner to kick the puck into the net and knot the score.
Skinner and his line lead Sabres forwards in 5-on-5 ice time on Sunday afternoon, and he's had an increased role at 5-on-5 since Ralph Krueger's dismissal.
It's a nice change for a player relegated to the bottom line early in the year.
2.) Ruotsalainen converts in just his second NHL game
Here's an easy observation - Arttu Ruotsalainen's first National Hockey League goal looked great.
Not only did Ruotsalainen fare better in terms of shot share on Sunday afternoon as opposed to his NHL debut on Friday, he found the score sheet for the first time.
The Finnish forward proved early and often in the American Hockey League that he was here to play in the NHL, and he certainly delivered on Sunday.
As Ruotsalainen gets more comfortable and gets more time with the big club, it will be interesting to see if he adds any other components to his game. His early offensive success shows that he may be a good candidate to use on the power play somewhere down the line.
3.) Bryson needs a new partner on defense
Sabres defenseman Jacob Bryson was pressed into duty in Buffalo very quickly this season.
While there was a logjam on defense to start the season, injuries have paved the way for Bryson to play a more regular role with the big club, maybe much earlier than what he was ready for.
Lately, the Sabres have heavily shifted Bryson at 5-on-5, as well as on the penalty kill, to play with Rasmus Ristolainen. It may be time to get Bryson away from Ristolainen and see what types of responsibilities he can take on with a different defensive partner.
Coming into the game, Bryson is one of the least-shifted players in the offensive zone for the Sabres, along with Ristolainen, indicating he's been forming a shut down pair on that unit.
At this point of Ristolainen's career, nothing is going to change. He enjoyed some success earlier this year with Jake McCabe, a player who has developed a great reputation as an NHL shot suppressor. Since Ristolainen's return from a nasty bout of COVID-19, he's struggled mightily, and with Bryson as his partner, the struggles have rubbed off.
Bryson also needs to work a bit on his board play. On the Flyers' third goal, Bryson went to retrieve a puck, but unsuccessfully battled with Flyers forward Joel Farabee along the boards. Farabee made a nifty play to an open Shayne Gostisbehere, who found space through the five-hole of goalie Linus Ullmark to put the Flyers ahead.
The Sabres need to find a way to get Bryson in a situation where he can use his best abilities in transition and in the offensive zone.
The Sabres will now travel to Boston two points richer, and will wait until Tuesday for their next on-ice action against the Bruins.
Coverage of the Sabres and Bruins starts with the Paul William Beltz Pregame Show hosted by Mike Schopp and the Bulldog starting at 6 p.m. ET. They'll take you through the hour leading up to opening faceoff, scheduled to take place just after 7 p.m. ET on the radio flagship of the Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.