The Panthers began the day scoreboard watching as they sat four points out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference that was held by the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, the afternoon game between Philly and the New York Rangers saw the Flyers absolute annihilate a Rangers team that basically had no more pride left. With the win the Flyers sealed the final spot in the East and left the Panthers with little to play for. The Buffalo Sabres entered their final game with nothing left to play for as they had already established themselves as the worst team in the NHL and thus will have the greatest chance at the number one overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
The Cats did not waste much time getting going in this game. Josh Gorges was dinged with a tripping penalty on Jared McCann and put Florida on the power play. The Cats were able to set themselves up on the power play as Vincent Trocheck shot from the center of the Buffalo zone and Jonathan Huberdeau’s stick tipped it past Sabres’ goalie Chad Johnson for the 1-0 lead.
Huberdeau’s 27th goal (69 points [NICE]) was courtesy of Vincent Trocheck (44 assists, 74 points) and Aaron Ekblad (22 assist, 38 points).
The game would go on with another Buffalo penalty. Yet it was not until midway in the first when La Florida added to their lead. The Panthers were peppering the Sabres net with shots and eventually the puck made it out to Frank Vatrano in the slot who shot it at the net and it hit off Colton Sceviour. 2-0 Dolphins on Bills.
Colton Sceviour’s 11th goal went off him from the shot of Vatrano (2 assists, 8 points).
Shortly after that the Panteras were treated to a speedy entry into the Sabres zone. Jared McCann passing to Evgenii Dadonov who made a soft touch pass to Nick Bjugstad on the wing who fired it past Chad Ochocinco for the 3-0 score.
Big Nick’s 19th golazo (48 points) was thanks to the ayuda of Dadonov’s 37th assist (64 points) and McCann’s 17th assist.
Not much really happened here. Nothing of too much note.
With this game and the Sabres season winding down, Buffalo made one last push to show they are not as awful as everyone thinks they are. Jason Pominville scored at the 15:30 mark to make it a 3-1 score. 21 seconds later and Sam Reinhart makes it a 3-2 game. We have some excitement for the first time in while. With the net empty however, the Panthers were able to coax the puck out of their zone in the ensuing Sabres onslaught. The puck spun towards the empty net and Vincent Trocheck gave it a friendly nudge into the mesh to make it a 4-2 game.
Trocheck’s 31st goal of the season was made possible by the assists of Jared McCann (18 assists, 27 points) and Colton Sceviour (13 assists, 24 points).
The Sabres would see Ryan O’Reilly bringing the game back down to a one-goal deficit at 4-3 with 16 seconds to go. The final scramble by Buffalo was all for naught and the Panthers closed out their 2017-18 home schedule with a victory.
The @FlaPanthers won't be going to the postseason, but winning their home finale tonight is something positive to end on, as they say thank you to all the fans after beating the Sabres. #FlaPanthers #NHL pic.twitter.com/YXEGeHuA9t— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 8, 2018
- Vincent Trocheck -FLA- Game-winning goal, 1 assist
- Jonathan Huberdeau -FLA- 1 goal
- Radim Vrbata -FLA- Final game of his NHL career
Puntos de Panteras
- The victory set the Panthers’ franchise record for home wins in a single season with 27 surpassing the 1999-2000 team that posted 26 victories at the National Car Rental Center (BB&T Center).
- Radim Vrbata, who was relegated to a healthy scratch role and played only 42 games for Florida, announced before the game that he was retiring. His decision was only made public after the Panthers were eliminated from Stanley Cup playoffs as he did not want to distract the team. Vrbata ends his 16-year career with 1,057 games played, 284 goals, 339 assists, 623 points, and 294 penalty minutes. Vrbata laced up for the Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, and Florida Panthers. For Florida, he scored 14 points with 5 goals (with a hat trick in October against Anaheim).
- James Reimer set a new career high with 21 victories, surpassing the 20 he got with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010-11.
- 16,254 people traveled to the BB&T Center to bid the 2017-18 Florida Panthers farewell.
The Panthers’ closing day comes later tonight against the Boston Bruins from the TD Garden. Boston needs a victory to take the Atlantic Division crown and host a first-round match-up with the New Jersey Devils. The Panthers have next to nothing more to do for the final game other than lose to gain a slightly better draft position.
Thank you everyone for reading. Please feel free to make your comments on this game and join us at LBC for the final game of the 2017-18 season tonight.