The depleted Florida Panthers saw their playoff hopes take a hit as they were beaten 3-1 by the Buffalo Sabres at FLA Live Arena.
On Monday, former Panthers Dmitry Kulikov and Frank Vatrano almost sparked the Anaheim Ducks to an upset win. Last night, ex-Cat Craig Anderson was able to accomplish the mission, stopping 53 of 54 shots for Buffalo to earn First Star honors.
Carter Verhaeghe scored Florida’s lone goal, cutting the Sabres lead to 2-1 at 8:24 of the third period, by beating Anderson’s glove from the right circle. Anthony Duclair, playing in his first game of the season, picked up the primary assist and Eetu Luostarinen got the secondary.
The Duke sets up Swaggy and the Cats are on the board!— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) February 25, 2023
Bally Sports+ is a new option to watch Panthers games. Learn more here ➡️ https://t.co/8va8dYUOxV@FlaPanthers | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/oxvttY8ZNF
Jeff Skinner would collect his second goal of the night 2:12 later when he took a pass from Tage Thompson and fired a sharp-angled shot upstairs on Sergei Bobrovsky to complete the scoring and earn his 600th career point.
While Verhaeghe was the only Panther to score, he made a couple mistakes that led to Buffalo’s first two goals.
Early in the second period, he took a pass from Matthew Tkachuk to gain the offensive zone, but didn’t get the puck in deep and Henri Jokiharju took it away and headmanned to Skinner. Skinner dropped to Thompson, who carved his way into the slot and then sent a cheeky pass back to his right that the 30-year-old sniper finished off.
Verhaeghe took an interfence penalty 4:32 later and the Sabres quickly (21 seconds) cashed in on the ensuing power play. After taking a return pass from Thompson, rookie defenseman Owen Power rapped the puck into the high slot and Alex Tuch snapped a shot over Bobrovsky’s blocker.
Without two top centers Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett to mark him, the super-sized Thompson racked up three assists to help put his club in a playoff spot.
The Panthers pelted Anderson with 27 shots in the third period, but the 41-year-old stopped all but one, dropping the Cats to 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
Florida gets another three days off and will hopefully have Barkov and Bennett back when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
Wings & Things
- Craig Anderson’s 53 saves tied his career-high. Anderson made 53 saves on March 2, 2008, when he was a member of the Panthers in a 1-0 road win over the New York Islanders. Anderson is the oldest goalie to make 50 or more saves in an NHL game.
- Anthony Duclair’s long-awaited return saw the speedster finish his first tilt with an assist, four shots on goal and five hits. The Duke played 17:26 and got better as the game went on.
- Jeff Skinner became the third member of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft class to reach 600 points. He joined Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Oh no, not more Taylor and Tyler...
- Speaking of 600, Buffalo forward Zemgus Girgensons played his 600th NHL game. Girgensons had one shot and five hits in the milestone game.
- Grigori Denisenko came close to notching his first NHL goal in the first period. Denisenko found himself on a breakaway after departing the penalty box, but his shot caught the post. The rookie had another good scoring chance, but his quick shot from the slot was denied by Anderson.
- Carter Verhaeghe, Matthew Tkachuk and Aaron Ekblad each had a game-high seven shots on goal for the Panthers.
- Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 32 of 35 shots and fell to 17-16-2 on the season.
- For more on game three between the Cats and Sabres, visit Die By The Blade.