Sabres gift wrap win to Panthers

The Buffalo Sabres shootout woes continued on Tuesday night as they dropped their second straight game in a shootout, this time a 4-3 final against the Florida Panthers.

With Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo both unable to score in the shootout, the Sabres dropped to 1-5 on the season in shootouts and 12-11-8 on the season.

The beginning of the game seemed to follow a theme the Sabres are creating as well.

In what has become an apparent tradition, the Sabres surrendered the first goal for the fifth straight game, but for the fourth straight game fought back to at least earn a point. Rasmus Ristolainen also continued his offensive dominance, notching a goal and an assist.

Unfortunately, Ristolainen’s offense and a solid second and third period were not enough to get two points against Jaromir Jagr and the Panthers.

The first period was, once again, objectively terrible for the Sabres. Beyond the 16-4 deficit in shots, the team again looked a step behind to begin the game. The Panthers took advantage of the slow start with Alex Barkov scoring on a bad line change by the Sabres to give Florida a 1-0 lead at the end of the first.

While not as abjectly terrible as the first, the Sabres’ start to the second period was not great either and they again were victimized by their 30th-ranked penalty kill, which allowed the Panthers to stake themselves to a 2-0 lead.

Then they woke up.

With goals from Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane in 1:10, the Sabres tied the game at two and the momentum stayed with the Sabres for the remainder of the period. That carried over to the third, when Rasmus Ristolainen scored off a broken play in front to put the Sabres ahead, 3-2.

The Panthers tied things up late in the third when Jagr feed Nick Bjugstad with what became his third assist on the night which pulled him into a tie with Mark Messier for second all-time in points with 1,887.

The shootout loss put the Sabres three points behind the Panthers in the standings, albeit with two games in hand, but with a loss against the New York Islanders tonight, the third placed Boston Bruins are now within five points.

Robin Lehner was sharp in regulation and overtime for the Sabres, stopping 36 of 39 shots and keeping the team afloat in what was an ugly first period. However in the shootout he struggled as he has all season, giving up two goals on two shots.

“Keep trying and keep working at it and try to take a different approach” – Coach Dan Bylsma on how Lehner can improve in shootouts.

The Sabres are back home at the KeyBank Center on Thursday with a rematch against the Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drop is at 7pm.

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