Unprepared Panthers get doubled up 4-2 by Sabres

Cats let opportunity to gain on Bruins slip away

The Florida Panthers got a little help on the out of town scoreboard, but once again failed to hold up their end of the bargain, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Buffalo Sabres to  start off a four-game road trip on the wrong foot.

Buffalo took advantage of an early tripping call on Jakub Kindl to open the scoring 3:21 into the action. Ryan O’Reilly got the goal when he converted Jack Eichel’s rebound with the power play about to expire. The second assist on the play went to former Panther Dmitry Kulikov.

The Sabres used another rebound to add to the lead at the 14:06 mark. Zach Bogosian’s initial shot caught the post, but the defender kept going towards the net and was able to poke the puck past a confused James Reimer. Assists on the goal went to Zegmus Girgensons and Matt Moulson.

Brian Gionta was the beneficiary of another fortuitous bounce 1:25 into the second period. Keith Yandle looked like he was going to safely clear the puck from behind his own net, but Moulson was able to get a skate on it, sending it right in front to Gionta. The veteran forward was able pull Reimer to the ice and finish high off the post and Jason Demers’ body.

The Panthers finally got on the board midway through the frame. After taking pass from Yandle, Jonathan Huberdeau held on to the puck for a few seconds before feeding red-hot Jonathan Marchessault with short pass for a one-timer. The goal was Marchessault’s team-leading twenty-ninth of the season.

Marcus Foligno put Buffalo back up by three, and ended Reimer’s night early, when his innocent looking shot from the left boards eluded the goaltender 4:49 after Hubderdeau’s marker. The assists on Foligno’s thirteenth went to Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

Hubderdeau pulled the Panthers back within two 1:02 later. Jaromir Jagr forced rookie Evan Rodrigues into turning the puck over in the slot and Huberdeau was able to beat Robin Lehner with a backhand for the unassisted tally.

The Panthers had a golden opportunity to cut the deficit to one when Reilly Smith was awarded a penalty shot early in third, but a sprawling Lehner was just able to get part of his arm on Smith’s backhand bid. Lehner finished the game with 30 saves.

Florida, still seven points behind the Boston Bruins and a little closer to being mathematically eliminated, will get right back at it tonight in Toronto versus the third place Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Wings & Things

  • Sabres captain Brian Gionta had an eventful night. In addition to bagging the eventual game-winner, the 15-year veteran skated in his 1,000th career game.
  • Speaking of career-game milestones, Panthers’ banger Shawn Thornton played his 700th and defenseman Mark Pysyk suited up for his 200th.
  • Jonathan Marchessault’s second period goal gave the diminutive forward six in the last three games.
  • Buffalo’s top-ranked power play got the best of Florida’s number one penalty kill, going 2-for-3 with the man-advantage.
  • James Reimer stopped 18 shots before he was replaced by Reto Berra. Berra turned away all 10 shots he saw in relief.
  • The Sabres are 8-1-1 in their last ten games against Atlantic Division opponents. Buffalo is now just one point behind the Panthers in the standings.
  • If you’re gonna die, you can either die with your boots on or play it safe and Die By The Blade for more Cats - Swords stuff./