The Florida Panthers have made great strides in terms of inching their way closer into a playoff position, but their quest for the post season would continue against the Buffalo Sabres tonight.
Net minder Roberto Luongo would get a break for tonight as backup James Reimer would fill in for the 38-year-old. For the struggling Sabres, they would rely on Robin Lehner to get the job done, as they looked to go for their third straight victory.
The Panthers started the game off with a sense of urgency, knowing that no matter how bad the Sabres were this season, two points were on the line in a difficult playoff push. Florida were dominating play, pinning the Sabres in their own zone for quite some time.
Eventually, the Panthers’ strong play was rewarded as Michael Matheson scored in the opening minute of play. Matheson walked right in and snapped a shot underneath Lehner’s blocker and in, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead:
A few minutes later, and Sam Reinhart unexpectedly leveled up the game. Victor Antipin threw a shot from the point, which hit Barkov and landed onto Ryan O’Reilly’s stick. As soon as the puck landed on #90’s stick, he quickly fed an open Sam Reinhart, who slotted the puck past James Reimer:
Reinhart’s goal completely changed the momentum of the hockey game. Florida, who were in complete control of the game, completely fell asleep. The Sabres created some solid scoring chances while the Panthers were sleeping, but failed to convert.
James Reimer on the other hand was doing everything he could to prevent the Sabres from scoring, in which he was successful at. The Panthers received a break during the closing four minutes of the first, where Aaron Ekblad scored to put his team ahead.
Keith Yandle sent Aaron Ekblad a cross-crease pass, where the 22-year-old defender snapped a shot over Lehner’s shoulder, giving the Cats a 2-1 lead. Ekblad’s goal would ultimately send the Cats into the dressing room with a one-goal lead, after a period of play. After a bit of an inconsistent period, the Panthers managed to regain their one-goal lead.
The second period was all Florida in play, with virtually no mistakes made in the defensive zone. Defense was getting the puck out as soon as it entered the zone, while the forwards created pressure in the Sabres’ zone, causing havoc in front of Lehner’s goal.
Buffalo was gifted with a man advantage in the opening minute of the second period; However, the Panthers’ penalty killing unit killed off the penalty with ease, preserving their one-goal lead in the process.
Moments later, the Panthers would double their lead thanks to Aleksander Barkov. Barkov powered his way to goal and backhanded a shot into the top corner past Robin Lehner:
After killing off yet another penalty, Colton Sceviour would triple the Panthers’ lead minutes later. Nick Bjugstad spun around and backhanded a shot which rebounded off of Lehner’s pad and straight towards Sceviour’s stick. Colton immediately snapped the rebound home, giving his side a 4-1 lead.
Florida managed to kill off three Sabres’ power plays while scoring an additional two goals. The second period would conclude with a score of 4-1 in favor of Florida. The third period was then underway where the Cats could seal off the victory.
Apart from a brief 5-on-3 man advantage during the beginning of the third, the Cats found themselves in a pretty scrappy third period, seen with some fights. Colton Sceviour and Nathan Beaulieu tussled for a few seconds until the refs intervened.
Jordan Nolan and MacKenzie Weegar also exchanged a few words and punches, while getting in on the brawl-like third period. But more importantly, apart from all the scraps, the Florida Panthers managed to kill off the remainder of the third period and seal their third win over the Buffalo Sabres this year.
No goals would occur in the third, but the Panthers would waltz their way to victory, defeating the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-1. With a win over the Sabres meant that the Cats would sit a point under the last wild card spot, waiting anxiously for the remainder of the night on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ game.
All in all, the Florida Panthers were in complete control of tonight’s hockey game, ultimately deserving of the two points they had earned. Your Panthers are back in action on Sunday, March 4th @3:00pm against the Philadelphia Flyers!