Wham, bam, thank you, Sam! Panthers rally past Sabres 4-3 to pick up 50th victory

Bennett pots winner with 38 seconds left in regulation

Sam Bennett scored his 100th career goal with 38 seconds left in regulation to give the Florida Panthers a 4-3 victory over the visiting Buffalo Sabres. It was Florida’s 50th win of the season.

The Panthers found themselves trailing at some point for the fourth straight game, but again were able to rally to capture two points to add to their record total.

Buffalo opened the scoring when Victor Olofsson took a crossing pass from Peyton Krebs and beat Sergei Bobrovsky from the right circle at 8:27 of the first. The goal came with one second left on Bennett’s hooking minor.

The Cats quickly replied 1:58 later with a power-play goal of their own. Jonathan Huberdeau took a pass from Aleksander Barkov and fed Claude Giroux for a one-timer from a sharp angle. That’s 20 goals for Giroux, who has scored in back-to-back games.

It only took the Sabres twenty seconds to regain the lead, thanks to a little bit of puck luck. Former Panther hybrid Mark Pysyk got the goal when he picked off a weak clear by rookie Anton Lundell and his subsequent harmless-looking shot deflected in off MacKenzie Weegar’s knee pad. Oops...

The visitors would tack on another at 15:35 thanks to another Florida turnover. Gustav Forsling backhanded a 50/50 puck off the boards and onto the stick of Tage Thompson, who quickly found Jeff Skinner open down low. The veteran capped the play with a backhand finish for his 30th of the campaign.

The Panthers would shake off yet another bad first period and dominate the rest of the way by outshooting Buffalo by a three to one margin, and outscore them 3-0 to secure the win.

Patric Hornqvist kicked off the rally 9:30 into the middle frame when he collected a loose puck behind the net after he centered for Brandon Montour, who got yanked down by Alex Tuch, and then shot it in off Dustin Tokarski’s back. Drawing assists on the heads up play by the savvy Hornqvist were Montour and Eetu Luostarinen.

Sam Reinhart would get the equalizer at 14:20, and Florida up a man, with a deflection of Aleksander Barkov’s soft shot from near the blue line after Giroux backhanded the puck back to the captain to restart the play after Pysyk knocked away a Huberdeau centering feed.

Tokarski would keep the Sabres in the game until the late stages when Barkov held the puck in at the blue line. Barkov passed to Huberdeau, who deftly dished back to Montour while falling down. The defenseman crossed back to Barkov, who found Bennett open on the door step for the game-winner, sending the large crowd at FLA LIve Arena into a frenzy.

Obviously the Panthers are having issues starting games, but they are having no problem finishing them as they won their sixth straight to give them a 9-1 record in their last ten tilts. As mentioned above, Florida hit 50 wins for the first time in franchise history, yet another milestone in a season full of them. The victory coupled with the New York Islanders 2-1 road win over the Carolina Hurricanes, thank you Kyle Palmieri and Ilya Sorokin, gave the Cardiac Cats a six-point lead with a game in hand over the Bunch of Jerks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for first place in the Atlantic Division is now up to eights points with each team having 11 games left to go on the docket. Florida gets right back at it this evening with quick one-off road game in Nashville against the rested Predators, who are coming off a 3-2 win over Ottawa on Thursday.

Wings & Things

  • The Panthers earned their seventh consecutive home win for their NHL-leading and franchise-record 30th win in Sunrise, where they have only lost six games this season. Florida overcame a multi-goal deficit to win for the eighth time and the third in their past four games. Their eight multi-goal comeback wins are the most in one season in club history.
  • Not only was First Star Sam Bennett’s game-winner his 100th career goal, it was also his 200th career NHL point. Double milestone!  Bennett leads the squad with seven GWGs this season.
  • With his first period helper, Jonathan Huberdeau extended his point streak to ten games.  He became the second player in team history, Pavel Bure is the other, to record multiple double-digit point streaks in a season.
  • Aleksander Barkov recorded his sixth straight multi-point game. Barkov tied his buddy Huberdeau for the second-longest such run in Panthers history behind Bure, who posted seven straight multi-point games during the 2000-01 season.
  • After getting the hook in his last two starts, Sergei Bobrovsky survived a spotty first period to finish with 19 saves and collect his 34th win in his third try at it.
  • On the other end, Dustin Tokarski aqcuitted himself well in the loss, turning aside 39 of 43 shots. A highlight reel stop on Anthony Duclair was probably his best save of the night.
  • Hats off to veteran Jeff Skinner for quite the bounce back season. Skinner is up to 30 goals after scoring just seven in 2020-21.
  • Down on the farm, the Charlotte Checkers became the first AHL Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff berth with a 3-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack. Cole Schwindt scored the opening goal and Serron Noel, Logan Hutsko, Aleski Heopniemi and Chase Priskie drew assists.
  • For more on Florida’s season sweep of the Sabres, check out Die By The Blade. See you next season, Buffalo!/

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