Buffalo opened up tonight’s game at the First Niagara Center against the Florida Panthers, looking to win their 6th straight home game.
When the first period began, a shot at continuing the streak seemed bleak solely because Buffalo struggled out of the gate. This would be a reoccurring theme through the first twenty minutes of hockey.
The lowlight of the first period would come courtesy of John Scott, who received a minor penalty for picking up and throwing the puck in Florida’s net after the whistle was blown.
Florida would finish the first, outshooting Buffalo 13-9.
Things would turn around for Buffalo, early in the second period.
At 5:13 of the second, a wide-open Jamie McBain received a crisp pass from a driving Steve Ott. This same play happened less than a minute before, when Steve Ott setup Johan Larsson but to no avail. Persistence pays off in hockey.
This was McBain’s third goal of the season, and it put Buffalo up, 1-0.
“Otter made a incredible pass,” McBain said. “I was open in the slot and was able to find a hole.”
Late in the second period, momentum began to shift Florida’s way. This was assisted by a 5-on-3 turned power play for the Panthers. Buffalo was able to successfully kill the penalties off, and return to full strength without problem.
Florida began the third period with increase pressure, as expected. The first few minutes of the third were spent with Buffalo fending off a heavy Panthers offensive pressure.
While Buffalo was able to fend off Florida’s pressure for an early part of the period, it would come to a head near midway through the period.
Florida entered Buffalo’s zone on a rush, and began a bevy of passes. These passes found Jhonas Enroth getting himself a little out of place, but he was able to make a spectacular save. Unfortunately, the save produced a juicy rebound. Due to his positioning on the ice, Enroth was not able to stop a shot from Tom Gilbert, which ended up being tipped by Brad Boyes near the goal.
The goal was Boyes’ 12th of the season, and it tied the game at 1.
Buffalo would spend the final half of the third looking to keep themselves in the game, all while attempting to actually win the thing.
“We’ve got to find a way to score goals,” said Mike Weber. “We’ve got to find a way defensively to learn to step on people’s throats and end it.”
Florida would score the go-ahead goal, off the stick of Brad Boyes, but the whistle was blown before the puck entered the net because Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov had been down in the Panthers’ zone. A review had been called, but because the whistle was blown for a player injured, it immediately becomes unreviewable.
After three periods, the game would be tied at 1 and the Panthers were out shooting the Sabres, 34-21.
Following a fairly eventless overtime, the Sabres and Panthers headed to a shootout.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, the shootout would prove to be uneventful as well. Ex-Buffalo Sabre, and shootout specialist, Brad Boyes would score the only shootout goal, which gave Florida a 2-1 victory.
Following the game, goaltender Jhonas Enroth had some strong words.
“I’m running out of answers to those questions”, Enroth said. “It is tough to win with this team.”
This loss drops Buffalo to 12-26-5 with 29 points on the season.
Buffalo’s next game will take place against the Washington Capitals, at the Verizon Center. Puck drops shortly after 3 PM, and the game will be broadcast on MSG and the NHL Network.