Quick Hits: Sabres at Panthers

Buffalo entered the BB&T Center on Tuesday night, looking to claw their way back into the Atlantic Division playoff picture. After a late goal allowed and an abstract failure in the shootout, Buffalo continues to find themselves on the outside looking in, as the Christmas break approaches.

Buffalo needed to come out early and install their road game plan, in order to gain the upper hand against Florida. Unfortunately, Florida turned the tables and forced the Sabres to play their style of hockey.

The Sabres fell into a 2-0 hole, following Aleksander Barkov’s 8th of the season in the first period and Keith Yandle’s 2nd of the season in the second period, before being jolted awake. Buffalo looked as if they were a part of the Walking Dead. Following the 2nd Florida goal, the dominoes started falling in Buffalo’s favor.

A Rasmus Ristolainen shot from the point was so expertly tipped by Sam Reinhart, who was stationed in front of Roberto Luongo. Shocking that Rasmus Ristolainen would get another assist, but Reinhart’s 7th goal of the season cut Florida’s lead in half.

Just 1:10 later, a scrum in front of Roberto Luongo would lead to a pristine scoring chance. Multiple Sabres whacked away at a loose puck, as the puck found its way to Evander Kane’s stick. Kane, without hesitation, would put the puck past Luongo for his 6th of the season.

With just a few minutes left in the 2nd period, Buffalo turned their game from a flat, lifeless effort into a mad dash for points. After watching the offensive struggle for the first period and a half, it was very refreshing to see them capitalize on a few opportunities.

Buffalo would pull ahead in the third, thanks to Rasmus Ristolainen and his 3rd goal of the season. Sam Reinhart found a wide-open Ristolainen in the slot, which again highlights his above-average vision on the ice with the puck on his stick.

The Sabres appeared to be strong in the driver’s seat from this point forward, but a late missed assignment in front of the net would lead to the game-tying goal.

Looking back on replay, it appears as if the play started with Jack Eichel missing his assignment on Aleksander Barkov. As that was happening, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Bogosian were wrestling in front of Robin Lehner. Bjugstad drifted back and made himself open. As soon as Barkov got the puck to Bjugstad, he lifted it over a laid out Robin Lehner.

Bjugstad’s 1st of the year tied the game up at 16:09 of the third period.

The game would head to overtime, which was a back-and-forth affair, but Florida was almost able to connect a few times. Either way, this game would end up being settled by a shootout, much to the despair of Sabres fans.

As expected, Buffalo fell to Florida 2-0 in the shootout so this one goes in the history books as a 4-3 shootout victory for the Florida Panthers.

Buffalo now sits an NHL-worst 1-5 in shootouts. Robin Lehner’s record pushes to 0-3 in shootouts this season, with all 6 shooters scoring. Safe to say at this point, confidence clearly is an issue.

The Sabres could’ve been 1 point behind Florida in the atlantic, instead Buffalo now sits 3 back of the Panthers. Buffalo continues to slowly collect points, but the Sabres still sit 5 points out of an Atlantic Division playoff spot (with 2 games in hand).

The Buffalo Sabres head home with two days off, before hosting the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at the KeyBank Center. Puck drops shortly after 7 PM and the game will be broadcast locally on MSG.

To the quick hits!

quick hits banner
    • Florida history.

Jagr will never stop playing hockey. I never want Jagr to stop playing hockey. I mean, this guy has been playing professional hockey exactly 1 year longer than I have been alive. We are not worthy, Jaromir Jagr.

Here are some fun stats:
– 766 players have played in the NHL this season. 455 of those players (58%) were born before the end of 1990.
– Jagr has played against players born in 1951 and 1998.
– Jagr leads active scorers by 524 points (Joe Thornton – 1363 points).

As for Luongo, remember when he was an afterthought in Vancouver? Lol good times.

    • Kulikov Back in Florida

For the first time in his National Hockey League career, Dmitry Kulikov enters the BB&T Center as a visiting hockey player.

Kulikov played 226 career games in Sunshine, as a member of the Florida Panthers. In the BB&T Center, Kulikov recorded 77 points (16 goals, 61 assists).

As for tonight’s matchup, Kulikov recorded 24:55 time on ice, -1 rating, 3 shots on goal, 2 blocks and 1 takeaway.

    • Just another shift of the lines.

Dan Bylsma, known for his penchant of being somewhat of a tinkerman, has again switched up the forward lines in hopes of sparking some more offensive chances.

Tonight’s line feature a promotion for Marcus Foligno, who has impressed Bylsma as of late.

“We moved Marcus around in the game and I thought his third period was his best by a mile – playing a big body, playing physical, getting to the net,” Bylsma told media following Monday’s practice. “He (Foligno) was at the net front three or four times there in the third. For three scoring chances, he’s the guy at the net, around the net, screening the goalie, getting a tip on some of those pucks and creating second opportunities. That’s the way we need him to play for 60 minutes, for every period.”

It is indeed interesting to see Bylsma break up the very successful Foligno / Larsson / Gionta line, but Foligno has indeed earned this line promotion.

Marcus Foligno’s first line tryout did not turn into much of a tryout. Foligno ended the night with only 12:34 time on ice after he lost 5 minutes to a fight with Shawn Thornton. Foligno did record 1 shot on goal, 2 hits, 1 block and 1 takeaway.

Other line switches feature Evander Kane slotting in with Larsson and Gionta. Derek Grant saw himself returning to the lineup, in lieu of Nicolas Deslauriers, centering William Carrier and Zemgus Girgensons.

    • Beyond Blue and Gold

    • Tweet of Game

Written by Ryan Wolfe

Ryan Wolfe is the founder and editor-in-chief of BLTD Sports. He can be heard on the BLTD Podcast. Ryan's writing is also featured over at TheHockeyWriters.com.

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