It seems as though the Panthers have a habit of playing down to their opponents.
Just two nights after shutting out the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 7-0, the Panthers fell flat, recording just 2 goals in a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. It was the first of 4 road games to kick off the final trip of the season.
The Sabres entered the game 3 points back of the Panthers with 1 more game played and were without one of their top scorers in defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who is in the middle of a 3-game suspension.
The Panthers allowed 2 power play goals while scoring 1 of their own, a Jonathan Marchessault one-timer from the slot for his 29th goal of the season. The goal got the Panthers to within 2 after the Sabres scored the first 3 goals of the game: 2 in the opening period and 1 to start the 2nd.
Marcus Foligno scored with an innocent wrist shot off the wing to spell the end of the night for James Reimer, who was relieved by Reto Berra after allowing 4 goals on 22 shots.
Jonathan Huberdeau would make it a 2-goal deficit with a forehand-backhand move off a turnover in the offensive zone, but that would be all the Panthers could muster the rest of the way.
Huberdeau also earned an assist on the Marchessault goal and picked up the Gordie Howe hat-trick after fighting Josh Gorges who leveled Aleksander Barkov along the boards in the 3rd period.
Reilly Smith was awarded a penalty shot in the final frame after being hooked on a breakaway, but Robin Lehner, who made 30 saves on 32 shots, stopped the backhanded attempt.
Mark Pysyk and Shawn Thornton were playing in their 200th and 700th career NHL games, respectively.
The loss brings the Panthers’ maximum possible point total to 91 with 7 games remaining, meaning they’re getting closer to being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. There is one more game remaining in the season series against the Sabres on April 9th with Buffalo currently holding the edge at 2-0-1.
They’ll meet the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final time this season in the second game of a back-to-back on Tuesday with 4 points up for grabs.