The victory got the Panthers back to NHL .500 at 10-10-4 and keeps the club on a pace for the possibility of a big homestand (currently 2-1-1) with four more games to come at the BB&T Center.
Florida outplayed the Sabres in the first period, out-shooting them 14-6, but had to settle for a 1-1 tie after twenty minutes as Buffalo took advantage of one glaring mistake and the Cats’ Mike Hoffman and Frank Vatrano both caught iron.
The Sabres opened the scoring at the 10:55 mark when Jack Eichel sent Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner on a 2-on-1 break. Skinner easily beat James Reimer for his 20th goal after Reinhart slid a pass by Keith Yandle. Low marks for both Yandle and Reimer on how they handled this. Yandle decided to play the shooter, but was way too passive about it and Reimer needlessly got low coming across the crease.
The Panthers took advantage of a late penalty on rookie Rasmus Dahlin to even the score at 18:31. Frank Vatrano worked the puck along the boards back to Mike Mathson and he went cross-ice to the hot Jared McCann, who blasted in a one-timer off defenseman Zach Bogosian from just above the right circle.
Buffalo regained the lead with a power-play goal 2:41 into the middle frame. Eichel took the puck from deep in his own end and eventually flipped a pass that got deflected in the air on its way into the slot that Reinhart, who separated from Colton Scevior, was able to whack in on the bounce in a fine display of hand-eye coordination.
Linus Ullmark drew the secondary assist on the goal and stopped all 12 Panther shots in the period, including big saves on Evegenii Dadonov and Barkov.
Fortunately for the Panthers, those two players would solve Ullmark to help give the Cats the win.
After McCann’s got smacked in the noggin with Casey Nelson’s stick, Dadonov made the Sabres pay when he scored on his rebound after deflecting a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau on goal. Yandle drew the second helper on Florida’s second power-play goal of the game with 9:04 remaining in regulation.
Reimer came up with two saves in overtime before Barkov won it for the Panthers on Florida’s 43rd shot of the game.
Barkov circled the net before passing the puck off on the left side to Huberdeau, who held on and then went back to the captain after he reversed his position and came out from behind the net just off the right post to rip the puck into the back of the twine. Aaron Ekblad collected the secondary assist on the game-winner.
A nice comeback win, but this was one the Panthers should have had in regulation as they had plenty of shots (43) and high-quality chances that they weren’t able to put away. I don’t mean to take away from a two-point performance over a red-hot Sabres team (10-1-1 in their last 12), however, the Cats are having trouble getting much scoring done 5-on-5. Thankfully, the sixth-ranked power play remains hot, helping the team stay in games. McCann’s goal was his first power-play marker of the year and third tally in the last four games. He is really stepping up with Vincent Trocheck out. Others need to follow suit so the club isn’t playing so many tight games. Reimer had a solid enough start, stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced to pick up his fifth win. The Panthers will have their hands full tonight, playing the Lightning in the second half of this back-to-back against the top two teams in the NHL. The Bolts hammered the Cats 7-3 ten days ago, so Florida should have plenty of motivation, and perhaps Roberto Luongo back in goal tonight.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)