Defenseman Keith Yandle picked a good time to have his most offensively productive game (three points) of the season, helping the Florida Panthers to a 4-2 win over the lowly Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center.
The Sabres opened the scoring, taking an advantage of a Jared McCann tripping penalty, 7:02 into the when Ryan O’Reilly took a little drop pass from Sam Reinhart and sniped Harri Sateri from the edge of the right circle. The second assist on the play went to Kyle Okposo, who picked off a failed Yandle clear to keep the Cats trapped in their own end.
Yandle redeemed himself 5:04 later, with the Panthers enjoying a two-man advantage, by ripping a one-timer by Chad Johnson after trading places with Aleksander Barkov, who picked up the primary assist. Vincent Trocheck drew the second helper on the power-play marker.
Florida’s special teams clicked again at the 14:29 mark to give the Cats the lead. Nick Bjugstad won an offensive zone faceoff back to Mike Matheson and the young blueliner snapped a wrister from lang range past Johnson for his sixth goal.
After taking a bounce pass off the boards from Johnathan Hubderdeau, Yandle spotted Denis Malgin all alone in front and got him the puck. Malgin used the space to pull Johnson to the ice before shoveling a backhander with 1:31 to go in the frame.
Buffalo ended the Panthers run on goals with a shorthanded tally 32 seconds into the middle stanza. After Sateri made a solid stop on Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson collected the rebound behind the net and fed Girgensons, who buried the second chance.
Sateri came up with a big stop, one of his 30 saves in the game, later in the period on Jason Pominville’s one-timer bid to keep Florida on top.
With the Panthers still clinging to a one-goal lead late in the third, Colton Sceviour bagged the clincher with 2:24 left in regulation. Sceviour, on an odd-man rush with Barkov, elected to shoot and stuffed a backhand through Johnson pads to finally give the Cats some breathing room. McCann hustled to knock the puck away from Rasmus Ristolainen at his own blue line to spring Sceviour and Barkov.
The Panthers got through the final two penalty-filled minutes of the tilt to complete a perfect two-game road trip in the Empire State. Florida limped into the All-Star break with a 2-5-2 record. Since returning to action, the Cats look like a different team, scoring four times against both the Islanders and Sabres, and giving Sateri enough help to pick his first two NHL wins. Next up are the Detroit Red Wings, Saturday night at the BB&T Center.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Swords & Tequila
- The Panthers won consecutive games for the first time since winning five in a row from December 19-30.
- Colton Sceviour’s game-clinching goal was his 100th career point and came in his 293rd big-league game.
- Ryan O’Reilly’s game-opening tally gave him ten points (5G/5A) in his last ten games.
- Aleksander Barkov’s assist on Keith Yandle goal ended a run of four-straight games without a point and came in 300th career game.
- Chad Johnson finished the game with 28 saves and saw his record drop to 2-9-3 on the season.
- Four major penalties were handed out in the final two minutes of the game, including one to Johan Larsson, who was tossed for cross-checking Vincent Trocheck’s face.
- Die By The Blade has the other side of Florida’s latest win over Buffalo.