The Florida Panthers opened its holiday homestand with an exciting, and historic, 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres on Star Wars night at the BB&T Center.
Jaromir Jagr assisted on all three goals in regulation to tie Mark Messier for second place in all-time NHL scoring with 1,887 points, and goaltender Roberto Luongo tied the legendary Terry Sawchuk for fifth all-time in wins at 447.
The Cats dominated the first period, out-shooting the Sabres 16-4, and came up with the frame’s only goal at the 16:09 mark. Aleksander Barkov notched his eighth when knocked his own rebound by Robin Lehner after taking a centering feed from Jagr. Jason Demers picked up the secondary assist.
Keith Yandle added to the lead 12:14 into the second when he fired a long wrist shot by Lehner after playing catch with Barkov near the blue line. Jagr, who ws screening in front, got the secondary assist on the power-play goal, drawing him within a point of Messier.
The Sabres quickly erupted for a pair of goals in a span of 1:10 to tie the game.
Sam Reinhart got the first one, deflecting a Rasmus Ristolainen shot by Luogno at 15:45 with Demers in the penalty box for cross checking. Ryan O’Reilly also collected an assist on the play.
Evander Kane bagged the equalizer when he slammed home Brian Gionta’s short pass in front after Luongo stopped a hard drive from Cody Franson.
The Sabres took the lead at 12:19 of the final frame when Ristolainen fired a blast by Luongo after taking a nifty pass from Reinhart, who was behind the net.
Nick Bjugstad got open in front, capping off the pretty passing of Barkov and Jagr, for his first of the year to tie the game with 3:51 remaining in regulation. Jagr started the play off by stripping former Panther Dmitry Kulikov behind the Buffalo net.
After Aaron Ekblad almost won it overtime, but caught iron instead, the game went to the shootout where the Cats made short work of the visiting Sabres.
After Luongo, who finished with 33 saves, stopped O’Reilly, Vincent Trocheck easily beat Lehner five-goal to give Florida the jump after round one.
The dangerous Barkov delivered the dagger after Kyle Okposo was denied by Luongo, roofing a forehead after pulling Lehner out of position.
The win, coupled with Boston’s loss to the New York Islanders, pulled the Panthers within two points of the third place Bruins, who will visit Sunrise on Thursday night. A night where Jagr and Luongo will be looking to make even more history.
Swords & Tequila
- Mark Messier posted his 1,887 points in 1,756 games. Jaromir Jagr reached the mark in 1,662 games. Both players sit 970 points behind Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857.
- The Panthers avenged a 3-0 loss to the Sabres back in October. The win raised the Panthers record at home to 9-5 and gave them five points in their last three games.
- In his first game back in Sunrise, Buffalo blueliner Dmitry Kulikov finished with three shots on goal, two blocks, a take-away and a -1 rating.
- After failing to score in his first 11 appearances of 2016-17, Nick Bjugstad’s first goal gave him points in two of his last three outings.
- Robin Lehner, who stopped 36 shots, has allowed goals to all six shooters he’s faced in the shootout this season. Gotta work on that.
- In addition to his three-point performance, Aleksander Barkov was strong in the dot, winning 11 of 15 draws. Barkov was one of four Panthers to finish the tilt with a +1. Bjugstad, Michael Matheson and Mark Pysyk were the others.
- The sauce will be mild when you visit Die By The Blade for other side of this one.