It has been a rough stretch for the Buffalo Sabres over the past four games. Buffalo lost two straight games to the National Hockey League’s best team in the Washington Capitals, then lost to a good New York Islanders team on New Year’s Eve, and recently gave up a late go-ahead goal to fall to the Detroit Red Wings.
The test would not get any easier for the Sabres on Tuesday night at the First Niagara Center. Buffalo played host to the red-hot Florida Panthers, who had won nine consecutive games coming into Tuesday’s game.
In the first period, it was the ageless wonder, Jaromir Jagr to open the scoring for the Panthers. The play started with Jonathan Huberdeau making a nice move to get around Sam Reinhart to take the puck into the Sabres’ zone. Huberdeau would find Jagr with some open space, and Jagr would one-time the puck past Sabres goalie, Linus Ullmark for the 1-0 lead.
For Jagr, that would be career goal number 736, which now puts him just five goals behind Brett Hull for third place on the all-time scoring list.
Buffalo would out-shoot the Panthers 12-10 in the period, but would head into the intermission trailing 1-0.
The Sabres would get its chance to tie the game early in the second period when Nick Bjugstad went to the penalty box for hooking. Just 34-seconds into the powerplay, Jack Eichel set up Ryan O’Reilly with a beautiful, behind-the-back pass to tie the contest, 1-1.
The tie would last just six minutes as the Panthers would regain the lead with a goal from Derek MacKenzie on a 2-on-1 that developed after Carlo Colaiacovo failed to keep the puck in on a pinch play.
Once again, Buffalo would out-shoot the Panthers heading into the second intermission, but the Sabres trailed on the scoreboard, 2-1.
In the third period, the Panthers caught fire. Corbin Knight would score his second career NHL goal just 5:35 into the third period off a feed in front of the net from Quinton Howden.
Ten and a half minutes later, Aleksander Barkov would break up a play on a 4-on-4 to set up Huberdeau on a breakaway. Huberdeau would get Ullmark going the one way in net, and he went the other way to net his fifth goal of the season.
In the dying seconds of the hockey game, the Sabres would pull Ullmark for the extra attacker, trying to pull within one. Instead, Brandon Pirri would tack on the Panthers’ fifth goal, which would put the game to rest with a 5-1 win for the Panthers.
Now time for the quick hits:
- Slump continues, with no end in sight?
With the Sabres loss to the Panthers on Tuesday, Buffalo has not won a game in January since January 30, 2014, and has only won two games in the past 29 games in the month of January.
On top of that, the Sabres have now lost five straight games in regulation. So make that 14 straight regulation losses for the Sabres in January dating back to last year when they lost all 12 games of the month in regulation.
Is there any relief in sight for the Sabres? Cross your fingers.
Up next for the Sabres is a three-game road-trip that starts Friday night in Chicago against the Blackhawks. Then on Sunday, Buffalo travels to Manitoba to play the Winnipeg Jets. Buffalo will then wrap up the road trip next week Tuesday in the State of Hockey against the Minnesota Wild.
When the Sabres return to the First Niagara Center next Friday, they host the Boston Bruins. The next day, the host the Capitals before going on another road trip out west to Arizona and Colorado.
Maybe the Sabres can catch a break in this upcoming stretch of games, but right now the team will have a steep uphill climb throughout the rest of the month
- Luongo, Panthers dominant in Buffalo
There is no arguing that Roberto Luongo has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL over the past 10 years. But in his recent stretch in Buffalo, Luongo has been lights out until Tuesday.
When O’Reilly got Buffalo on the board in the second period, it ended Luongo’s shutout streak against the Sabres in Buffalo at 205:27. That is over ten periods of scoreless action for Luongo, and the last time he gave up a goal before then in Buffalo was February 11, 2006 when he was in his first stint with the Buffalo Sabres.
As for the Panthers, they have completely dominated the Sabres in Buffalo over the past nine games. Florida has gone 7-0-2, has scored the Sabres by a total of 19-12, and has gotten two shutouts in that nine-game span.
These two teams will meet just one more time this season, in Buffalo on February 9.
- Eichel dishing beautiful helpers
Not sure how many more times we can say that Jack Eichel is good, but he was really good on Tuesday night.
In the second period, Eichel received a pass from Jamie McGinn on the powerplay, in close to the Panthers’ net. Eichel took the pass, spun around, and threw a no-look pass to Ryan O’Reilly, who was by himself, and put it up and over Luongo to tie the game.
Eichel to ROR, tie game pic.twitter.com/GEZCzwDsWq
— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 6, 2016
For Eichel, it was his 13th assist and his 26th point on the season. It was also his 12th point in the past eight games, which has helped him climb back into the Calder Trophy race.
For O’Reilly, it was his team-high 16th goal of the season, and his team-high 34th point in his first season with the Sabres.
If Eichel and O’Reilly can continue to play strong for the Sabres, Buffalo’s luck will turn and maybe the team can string together some wins.
- Lehner’s return is much-needed
It was revealed earlier that both Robin Lehner and Mark Pysyk are going to be playing a few games in Rochester later this week as part of a conditioning stint before returning to action with the Sabres.
After the past few games, having Lehner back in net for the Sabres will be a much-needed boost to the lineup.
After Chad Johnson gave up a late goal on Saturday in the loss to the Red Wings at home, head coach Dan Bylsma would turn back to Linus Ullmark in net, who has not registered a win since December 12 against the Los Angeles Kings.
Throughout the night, Ullmark struggled in net as he gave too many open net opportunities for the Panthers.
On Jagr’s goal in the first period, Ullmark could not get over to fend off the one-timer. It was a shot that Ullmark could have gotten over to quicker, and it looks like he just whiffed on the glove side. On the second goal, Ullmark went down a bit too early, which allowed MacKenzie room to put his shot over his shoulder to the top corner. And on the third goal, Ullmark tried to sprawl out to make the save on Knight. Instead, Knight was in the slot, and Ullmark would give up way too much space and Knight made his goal look easy.
Derek MacKenzie puts the Panthers up 2-1 pic.twitter.com/GaUh9MzJxc
— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 6, 2016
When Lehner returns to Buffalo, Ullmark will have the time to get more starts and to further improve his positional game in Rochester with the Amerks. It will only do the young Swede more good than bad, and maybe he can help the Amerks get some wins and contend for the Calder Cup.
But in the mean time, get better very soon, Robin.