The Florida Panthers beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 to snap a five-game losing streak in a tilt that was closer than the final score, padded by two empty-net goals, would indicate.
Jonathan Huberdeau assisted on Florida’s first three goals and Roberto Luongo snapped a tie with Curtis Joseph to stand all alone in fourth place on the NHL’s all-time wins list.
Buffalo opened the scoring with 6:58 left in a rather cautiously played first period when Kyle Okposo deflected in Viktor Antipin’s shot from the point. Evander Kane picked up the second assist on the power-play goal that came with Colton Sceviour off for hooking.
After Robin Lehner robbed Radim Vrbata late in the first and came up with a diving goal line save early in the second, the Panthers finally got on the board when Evgenii Dadonov converted a rebound opportunity at 6:52 of the middle frame with the assists going to linemates Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau. Aaron Ekblad made a nice hold with his glove at the blue line to allow the Cats to keep the pressure on.
Ian McCoshen provided the go-ahead goal 3:50 into the third period. After Huberdeau gained the zone and fended off the back-checking Okposo, he dropped the puck to McCoshen and he beat Lehner from the point with Barkov providing a helpful screen. Dadonov drew the second helper on the rookie’s third goal.
Luongo, who finished with 24 saves, came up with a huge stop on Sam Reinhart with 6:34 remaining to keep his club on top.
The Panthers put the game away at 18:28 when Barkov fired home the first of two empty-netters after taking a sweet backhand dish from Hubderdeau. Scevior also collected a helper on the play.
Vincent Trocheck completed the scoring seventeen seconds later, converting after tracking down Ekblad’s long clear. The goal was Trocheck’s team-leading eighth of the campaign.
Florida finally tightened up in its own end, holding the now last place Sabres to just 25 shots on goal. Dadonov and Barkov each ended a three-game goalless drought with Huberdeau providing the line with a much-needed spark. The Panthers get right back at it tonight in Newark against the New Jersey Devils, who will be looking to end a four-game losing streak.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Wings & Things
- After passing Curtis Joseph with his 455th NHL win, the three goaltenders left in front of Roberto Luongo are Ed Belfour (484), Patrick Roy (551), and Martin Brodeur (691). Catching Belfour looks doable, Roy not so much, Brodeur... no way.
- Jonathan Huberdeau’s three-assist performance gave the left winger a team-leading 19 points, two better than Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck.
- Speaking of Trocheck, the second-line center has scored a goal in four straight games.
- As for Barkov, he and defenseman Keith Yandle posted +4 ratings to lead the team on a night when no Panther got tagged with a minus.
- Robin Lehner delivered a quality start for the Sabres, finishing with 27 saves.
- Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, and Marco Scandella all went -3 for Buffalo. Kane was the only one of the four to collect a point and led the Sabres with four shots.
- Die By The Blade has the other side of the first of four meetings between the ATlantic Division rivals.