Games on back to back nights haven’t been kind to the Florida Panthers so far this season. In two opportunities in 2011, the Panthers have lost both back ends of consecutive games in regulation by a combined score of 8-1. The challenge following Thursday night’s huge win over the Boston Bruins was to face the Buffalo Sabres on Friday and try to get a result. It wasn’t pretty, but the Panthers were able to grind out a point in a 2-1 overtime loss. It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game as the fatigue showed itself for the Panthers, especially later in the third period.
For the second straight game, the Panthers’s offense didn’t much of a chance to establish itself as they spent most of the period on the penalty kill because of three minor penalties. Despite the strong Florida penalty kill bailing the team out, the Sabres broke through first at even strength. With Mike Weaver caught ahead of his forwards in the offensive zone, Drew Stafford was able to get a pass to Derek Roy, who skated past Dmitry Kulikov and Tim Kennedy (who was late in covering for Weaver) and raced in alone on Scott Clemmensen and beat him on his right side for a 1-0 lead.
Midway in the second, the Panthers got the scare of the season, when Tomas Fleischmann crashed through a door to the Sabres bench opened inexplicably by their backup netminder Jhonas Enroth (no wonder everyone wants to run Buffalo goalies). On the Fox Sports-Florida broadcast, Flash was shown wincing on the Panther bench as he received attention to his shoulder.
Later in the period, the Sabres decided to show off their holiday spirit of giving by giving the Panthers a desperately needed 5-on-3 power play by taking two penalties within ten seconds of each other. It only took 14 seconds for the Cats to convert as Jason Garrison blasted home his ninth goal of the season from the left point off a feed from Fleischmann (and for the first time, not Brian Campbell), who missed minimal time with his injury and showed no ill effects.
The third period saw the Panthers tone back their aggressiveness and seemed content to wait for a Buffalo mistake, which never came. Clemmensen made some key saves down the stretch to help keep the game level and send it to overtime, which hasn’t been kind to Florida as they’ve only won one game that has lasted longer than 60 minutes. And they wouldn’t much success on Friday as, once again, a Panther defenseman, this time Kulikov, got caught down too far in the offensive zone, which led to a breakaway for Jason Pominville who fired an early shot that got past Clemmensen before he could get fully set up to give the Sabres a 2-1 win.
While you hate losing, the Panthers should be very happy with the point they earned in this game. Back to backs are always tough, but it’s made even more difficult when you come off a such an emotional win as the Cats had on Thursday against the defending Stanley Cup champions. There not always going to be wins, but when you can at least draw a point from a loss, you’re going to do well in the standings. And the point earned Friday night in Buffalo means the Panthers are now tied for the most points in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Flyers, but who also have two games in hand. But, for a day at least, Panther fans can say their team has the best point total in the conference! The Panthers flew to New York City following the game and will hold an open practice in Central Park on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s contest against the New York Rangers.
Our friends at SabreNoise watched the game as well, here is their view of the game.
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