It was the final matchup of the 2015-16 season between the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the First Niagara Center.
Buffalo was coming off a controversial loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night when Rasmus Ristolainen was called for a hooking penalty in overtime that led to the game-winning penalty shot from Brad Marchand. Problem was, Marchand checked the stick out of Ristolainen’s hands, and Ristolainen had no stick to hook him with.
As for the Panthers, the team came in to Buffalo after a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night at the Joe Louis Arena. In the game, Aleksander Barkov took a hit from Justin Abdelkader and suffered an upper-body injury. Barkov did not play against the Sabres on Tuesday night.
Buffalo would get Marcus Foligno back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury. However, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson would miss Tuesday’s game with lower-body injuries. Larsson injured his ankle during the morning skate, and did not take part in the pre-game warmups. That meant that Jake McCabe would move up to play forward and head coach Dan Bylsma would have to dress seven defensemen.
Robin Lehner would return to the net for his second consecutive start, while Roberto Luongo would look to continue his dominance in net against the Sabres.
This game was all Panthers, as Buffalo would end up losing the season series after a 7-4 loss on home-ice
The Panthers got on the board first at the 7:40 mark of the first period with a goal from Reilly Smith. Ristolainen’s pass hit Vincent Trocheck and the puck went to Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen found Smith and he ripped a slapshot over Lehner for his 17th goal of the season.
Reilly Smith goal pic.twitter.com/9Y9WKNpzLC
— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 10, 2016
Just 3:05 later, the Panthers went up 2-0 with a goal from Brian Campbell. The Panthers’ puck movement came into factor once again, as Jaromir Jagr dropped the puck back to Nick Bjugstad, then he got it back to Alex Petrovic at the point. Petrovic got the puck over for Campbell, who took the puck towards before throwing the puck towards Lehner. On the way to the net, the puck was re-directed off the stick of Ristolainen and it just beat Lehner for Campbell’s fifth goal of the season.
Just 25-seconds before the first period ended, Florida would add another one as the Panthers’ puck pursuit pays off. Trocheck beat Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian to the puck in behind the Sabres net, and would feed it behind him to Smith. Smith then found Jokinen wide open in front of Lehner and put home is eleventh goal of the season.
The first period would end with the Panthers out-shooting the Sabres 11-9, leading in shot attempts 16-15, and leading 3-0 on the scoreboard.
In the second period, the Panthers would go up 4-0 thanks to a goal from Petrovic. The Panthers would win the draw and the puck would go towards the near-side boards. Petrovic was there and ripped a slapshot through a screen to beat Lehner.
That would be all we saw from Lehner, as he was replaced just 22-seconds into the second period by Chad Johnson.
Just 12-seconds later, the Sabres would get its first chance to get on the board on the powerplay with a holding call going to Panthers defenseman, Brett Regner.
On the powerplay, Sam Reinhart would put Buffalo on the board with a goal 35-seconds into the man-advantage. Ristolainen took a shot that went off a Panthers’ defenseman and wide of the net. The puck bounced back towards the front of the net, where Reinhart was there to whack it in for his 15th goal of the season.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 10, 2016
Just 40-seconds later, Evander Kane and Petrovic would tangle up in the Panthers end and drop the mits for a fight. Both were given five-minute penalties, along with an additional two minutes for each. For Petrovic, the fight capped off a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick on the night.
Less than two minutes later, the Sabres would get back to the powerplay after Panthers forward Garrett Wilson tripped up Bogosian in the Sabres end.
With 19-seconds remaining in the Sabres’ man-advantage, Reinhart was at it again as he was right alongside of the net for his second goal of the game. Ryan O’Reilly would find Reinhart off to Luongo’s left, and Reinhart re-directed the puck off his skate and in the net. The officials would look at the goal for a brief moment, but it was deemed a good goal.
But the Panthers were not going to let Buffalo get back into this game too soon, as Brandon Pirri would put the Panthers back up by three. Campbell would take a shot towards the net, and Pirri made a beautiful re-direction in front of the net for his eleventh goal of the season.
Over two minutes later, the Panthers were about to go back to the penalty kill when Kane and Petrovic dropped the gloves once again. This time, Kane got the T.K.O. with a short right jab in on Petrovic to drop him to the ice.
— Max Marko (@MarkoFznFutures) February 10, 2016
But the eventful second period did not stop there, as the Panthers would add-on one more before the end of the second frame. This time, it was Jonathan Huberdeau and Jagr working their magic once again. Huberdeau brought the puck in towards Johnson, then left a beautiful drop pass to Jagr, and Jagr with a nice shot past Johnson for his 17th goal of the year. Not only that, but Jagr scored his 46th career goal against the Sabres.
After two periods of play, the score was 6-2, the Panthers continued to lead in overall shots with 23 over Buffalo’s 21, but the Sabres led in shot attempts by the total of 34-33.
Evander Kane would get Buffalo back to within three past the halfway point of the third period. Kane corralled a misfire from Josh Gorges, then put a shot on goal that somehow got through Luongo for his 13th goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later, it was round three of Kane versus Petrovic with Kane, once again, getting the T.K.O. Both players were assessed two-minute penalties for taking off their helmets, five minutes for fighting, and an automatic game misconduct for fighting three times in a game.
Buffalo would get back to within two goals when Mike Weber threw a shot along the far-side boards and into the net. It was Weber’s first goal of the season and his first goal since January 13, 2015 against the Detroit Red Wings.
With time running out in the game, the Sabres would pull Johnson for the extra-attacker. After a golden opportunity was missed by Jamie McGinn in front of the net, Smith would put home the empty-netter for his second goal of the game, and the icing on the 7-4 win over the Sabres.
Now, time for the quick hits:
- Panthers have Buffalo’s number
The Panthers have had the Sabres’ number almost all season long, especially in the final two games of the season. After Tuesday’s routing of the Sabres, the Panthers have outscored the Sabres 17-10 in four games this season, and out-shot the Sabres as well by a total of 129-111.
As for Roberto Luongo, he gave up four goals on 34 shots faced, but came out of this season series 2-1-0 in three games played with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .922 save-percentage.
As for Jaromir Jagr, he has once again dominated the Sabres this season with four goals and two assists. Even at age 43, he still dominates the Sabres like he did when he was in his early years.
The next time the Sabres will face the Panthers will not be until the 2016-17 season, and who knows what both teams will look like come that time. But for now, the Panthers continue to stand atop the Atlantic Division standings while the Sabres will reside in the bottom portion of the NHL standings.
- Samson continues his excellent rookie campaign
Sam Reinhart’s rookie season just keeps getting better every game he plays. Reinhart notched two more goals to his rookie total, and now has matched fellow rookie Jack Eichel with 16.
Reinhart now has 16 goals and eight assists in 51 games played this season, and he had to center a line with Evander Kane and Brian Gionta to start this game. More importantly, Reinhart has scored goals in three straight games, and four of them in total.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 10, 2016
Reinhart has climbed his way up into the top-10 of rookie scoring with his 24 points, and sits 12 points behind Eichel, who is in third on the rookie scoring list behind Red Wings forward, Dylan Larkin and Chicago Blackhawks forward, Artemi Panarin.
Reinhart’s numbers are certainly respectable, especially since many thought he was going to be in the American Hockey League for part of the season. We just hope now that Reinhart can keep playing strong and finish the season on a high note.
- Kane – 3, Petrovic – 0
Evander Kane has not fought in a hockey game in a while, let alone have three hockey fights in one game. But if we have learned anything in the past, Kane can throw some haymakers. It must have taken Petrovic three times to learn that face.
“He’s a big boy,” Kane said following the loss. “The first two probably didn’t go his way, and you get kicked out after the third one so there wasn’t a chance for a fourth one… ”
If you missed the fights, you can watch all three down below:
- Lehner chased early, not his fault
It was certainly a rough night for Lehner, but he certainly should not be taking any of the blame for the loss.
Lehner gave up four goals on 12 shots faced, but do not let that deter everyone for the way he has played over the past few games. On Tuesday, he had a couple of re-directed pucks go in off his players, and he was screened on one or two occasions. Even head coach Dan Bylsma saw what was going on, and even thought that he should have taken Lehner out after the period.
“The second one, the Campbell shot, gets tipped in by us, so it’s a bad angle,”Bylsma said following the loss. “The third one is the play we let out from behind the net, and the two on one in front with the tap-in back-door. There’s nothing Robin can do about that one. And the fourth one’s obviously a shot came from a bad angle and I don’t think he sees that at all. It’s four to nothing, and I’m not faulting the goaltender at all. I probably should have sparked a change after the first [period], and not let [the fourth one] go in.”
Lehner will hopefully bounce back in the next game he plays, which could be one of the next two on Thursday or Friday night. Buffalo is in Philadelphia on Thursday night before returning home for a Friday matchup with the Canadiens.