Panthers Survive, Knock Out Sabres And Stay Red-Hot

Panthers Sabres Buffalo Florida

SUNRISE, FL – This was certainly a close contest that many may have thought it should have been, but the most important thing a good team has to do is to not give away a late lead. It took some heroics from familiar faces, but the Florida Panthers got the job done over the Buffalo Sabres, holding on to a 3-2 win even when things got dicey.

The Amerant Bank Arena was stunned at the start with the Sabres getting an early power play score, but Florida didn’t budge and bounced back with a pair of goals before the end of the first period. After that, the defenses kept their composure and shut down the second period, but both teams found more success in the third period.

Florida’s single-goal advantage turned out to be what they needed to survive, and barring Buffalo’s goalie from coming off the ice in crunch time limited their oppression. All in all, it was a tough win that the Panthers tend to thrive in, and that was no different tonight.

“Last year in January, we were still very critical of how we played…how hard we played,” said head coach Paul Maurice postgame. “The mistakes that got made didn’t bother me very much, it was how hard we played. Now we play pretty darn hard.”

They Ain’t The Bills

It would be hard not to agree that Florida’s the hottest team in the NHL right now. They’ve won seven of their last eight games and would have tied a record for most consecutive road wins if not for an overtime stumble to Carolina. Regardless, they find themselves in a neck-and-neck battle with Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division and have certainly proven themselves to be a dangerous team in the playoffs.

On the other side of the ice, the Buffalo Sabres have been the definition of mid this season. They entered this game with a 27-27-4 record but were coming off the momentum of three straight wins. Still, Florida had their way with Buffalo back on February 15th in a 4-0 romp up in Western New York. All in all, things have not gone well for Buffalo for a while now, as they haven’t been to the playoff since 2011 – the longest active drought in the NHL.

All Slash, No Bite

Give the Sabres some credit. They didn’t have much going for them in this game, but they still took the initiative. With a man advantage off a hooking penalty on Brandon Montour, Buffalo landed a snapshot that got by Bob.

While that shook things up in the building, Florida’s defense took over and limited what the Sabres could do. At the forefront was Sergei Bobrovsky, who had another class game with 28 saves. The Cats committed four penalties following this throughout the game, but their stellar penalty kill did what they do best.

“They have a good team. They got lots of skills up front,” said Bobrovsky postgame. “The system they play is a little different. They made lots of east-west passes. They were dangerous, offensively, up front. It was a good challenge.”

Their only other goal came off a deflection with just over eight minutes to go, but when they needed to score the most with minutes to go, they couldn’t get a clean shot in. Their goalie tried to come out of the game with two minutes to go to give the Sabres an extra attacker, but an onslaught of turnovers and Panthers breakaways never gave him a good chance.

The Tkachuk And Monty Show

For the Panthers, the players who make an impact every single game continue to lead the way for this team. After the snapshot by Sam Bennett for the equalizer, Matthew Tkachuk had another classic circus shot where a wrister bounced off a Buffalo defender’s stick and happened to find a gap between the goalie and the net to give Florida their lead that they never gave up.

The second period was nothing to write home about. Both teams had power plays but couldn’t do anything with them, so it was a relatively quick 20 minutes.

The third period was where Montour came in clutch. Coming off a tripping and unsportsmanlike penalty on the Sabres, the Cats spent some time passing the puck around until it found Monty in the back, who launched a cannon that flew by everyone. This was an insurance goal that turned out to be the difference and was his third point of the game as he managed a pair of assists beforehand.

With all that said and done, Florida stands with a 39-16-4 record and is now in first place in the NHL, at least for now. They’ll look to close out this three-game homestand strong against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, February 29th at 7 pm. Then the Cats will go on a three-game road trip starting with the Detroit Red Wings on March second.

(Visited 85 times, 1 visits today)