|@ Sabres (15-21-4)||0||1||0||1|
Buffalo put the pressure on Luongo in the first few minutes of the game and this only increased when Quinton Howden was penalized for hooking. The penalty was killed but the Sabres’ offensive domination continued. Around the halfway point of the period, the Panthers were able to turn their game around in a big way. Jonathan Huberdeau set up Jaromir Jagr for a beautiful goal and the Panthers took a fairly early lead. The Panthers were then able to even out the shots on goal, but Buffalo was still pushing hard. The rest of the period was fairly back and forth, as both the Panthers and the Sabres were able to get some good shots off. At the end of the period, the Panthers led 1-0 but the Sabres held the edge in shots on goal 12-10. The Panthers played well in the second half of the period and really, all they have to do to remain successful is to play the rest of the game like they did during that time. The first half of the period was not great but Huberdeau and Jagr made up for that at the halfway point.
The second period started with yet another Sabres power play. This was due to a Nick Bjugstad hooking call and Buffalo took great advantage of the opportunity. Ryan O’Reilly was easily able to score on Luongo to end Luongo’s three game shutout streak in Buffalo. Right afterwards, the Panthers were called for yet another penalty. This time, Jagr was penalized for tripping and the Sabres got a better chance to take the lead. Thankfully, they did not do this and the Panthers were able to kill the penalty. The Panthers looked like they were losing steam but leave it to Derek MacKenzie to trudge his way to the goal and score a top-down beauty. The goal was assisted by Corban Knight and Alex Petrovic but the speedy Logan Shaw also deserves credit for rushing the puck to the offensive zone and making the goal possible. The Panthers began to pick up the pace once more, but Quinton Howden was called for tripping and the Panthers got their fourth penalty of the game. The penalty was killed easily and even strength play continued. An Evander Kane-Dmitry Kulikov tussle yielded roughing penalties for each participant. Some Gudbranson defense kept the Panthers in the lead 2-1 at the end of the period. The Sabres still held the lead in shots on goal 24-17. Gameplay wise, the Panthers were good this period. In order to win, they need to stay out of the penalty box, though. Five Panthers penalties so far and not a single penalty kill for the Sabres can only mean bad things. The Panthers are taking risks and that is great but they should be able to do so without penalizing themselves. Next period, the Panthers need to keep an offensive mind while still playing a smart game.
The final frame started with a Barkov breakaway opportunity on the 4-on-4 that was just barely saved by Ullmark. The Sabres were trying hard once again to tie the game up but a Quinton Howden hit and a pass to Corban Knight changed all of that. Corban Knight scored to give the Panthers their magical third goal. However, this goal did not allow the Panthers to gain momentum. The Sabres, with Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly leading the rush, did not make things easy for Luongo in the last ten minutes of regulation. With 5:07 left in the period, the Panthers got their first power play of the game when Jake McCabe was sent to the sin bin for tripping Aleksander Barkov. This power play only lasted 27 seconds though because Dmitry Kulikov was penalized on a questionable holding call. This upsetting call did not phase Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored an easy-peasy goal on the breakaway. Aleksander Barkov assisted the goal. With just under two minutes left, the Sabres pulled their goalie and Brandon Pirri got a quick empty net goal to stick the dagger in the Buffalo Sabres. The Panthers won their 10th straight game 5-1.
Jaromir Jagr scored his third goal in two games off of a beautiful pass from Jonathan Huberdeau, who was a playmaker whenever he was on the ice tonight. In addition to that assist, Jonathan Huberdeau also scored on the 4-on-4 to widen the Panthers’ lead and to ensure a Panthers win. Corban Knight had a particularly great two-point game tonight and was able to score to widen the Panthers’ lead, as well as assist the MacKenzie goal. Derek MacKenzie knew when the Panthers were in need of a boost and scored the game winner. Roberto Luongo did not have it easy tonight but he was able to save every shot but one tonight to prove why he is incredible.
The Panthers will continue their road trip on Thursday, January 7th at 7:30 pm ET against the Ottawa Senators. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.