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game recap

Panthers top Sabres for fifth straight win

Reimer allows one goal after giving up seven last start

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

James Reimer made 24 saves, and Aaron Ekblad scored his 50th NHL goal to help the Florida Panthers defeat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 at BB&T Center on Friday.

The Panthers' fifth straight win matches their longest streak of the season and moves them one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"It's nice for me as a coach when you see guys get on rolls and the team gets on a roll," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "It's an easy buy-in. They understand the way we need to play to be successful. I think now they are reaping the rewards. They go into every game and know how important it is and expect to win. That's a great identity."

 

[WATCH: All Sabres vs. Panthers highlights]

 

Mike Matheson, Aleksander Barkov and Colton Sceviour also scored for the Panthers (31-25-6), who are 12-3-0 in their past 15 games. Reimer bounced back after giving up seven goals in his last start, a 7-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 18.

"I think that's what it takes to be able to get yourself into the playoffs and then have success in the playoffs," Matheson said. "You can't rely on the same two players or the same two lines every single night. You need contributions from everyone."

Sam Reinhart scored, and Robin Lehner made 26 saves for the Sabres (20-34-11), who lost for the first time in three games. Buffalo is 18 points behind the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes for the second wild card.

Video: BUF@FLA: Reinhart nets O'Reilly's nice backhand pass

"I thought we had our opportunities at key times in the game and they capitalized on theirs and we didn't," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "The game's 2-1 and we're getting really good looks there; 2-on-1s, odd-man rushes, and really some opportunities to make a difference and we weren't opportunistic at that time and I think that's where the game stood."

Matheson gave Florida a 1-0 lead at 1:25 of the first period, but Reinhart tied it 1-1 at 5:34. It was Matheson's ninth goal of the season and first at home.

"I guess that's just how it goes sometimes where it can just happen where you end up not scoring for a little while at home or even on the road, whatever the case may be," Matheson said. "So I didn't give it too much thought, but it's nice to get it."\

Video: BUF@FLA: Matheson goes upstairs to open scoring

Ekblad made it 2-1 at 16:41 after he received a pass from Keith Yandle and took a shot from the right face-off circle. It was his 13th goal of the season.

Barkov pushed the lead to 3-1 at 6:49 of the second period when he received a pass from Nick Bjugstad and skated between Sabres defensemen Justin Falk and Nathan Beaulieu and chipped a backhand shot to the top corner for his 24th goal.

Video: BUF@FLA: Reimer shuts down Josefson, Nolan in order

Sceviour made it 4-1 at 11:16 when he scored his first goal in 13 games on a rebound of a shot by Bjugstad for his eighth of the season.

"Our entire lineup has been contributing and that's been the big difference," Bjugstad said. "You know, we are having a heck of a run here and we got to keep it going. We can't stop here."

 

Goal of the game

Ekblad's goal at 16:41 of the first period.

Video: BUF@FLA: Ekblad puts Panthers ahead with nice wrister

 

Save of the game

Reimer's save on Jacob Josefson at 11:09 of the second period.

Video: BUF@FLA: Reimer steers aside Josefson's wrister

 

Highlight of the game

Barkov's goal at 6:49 of the second period.

Video: BUF@FLA: Barkov turns on the jets, nets backhander

 

They said it

"I liked the way we responded, we tied it up right away. And we give [up] that other goal, again, on the face-off. Those are killers and they can take a lot of wind out of your sails, but even at that point we had a lot of opportunities to tie up the game." -- Sabres coach Phil Housley 

 

"We knew we had to get on a run like this. Obviously, the way we started wasn't ideal, but anything can happen at the end of the year. A spark has been lit here and we're meshing well. There's no stopping here, we still have a lot of games to play and we can't rely on other teams to help us out. It's got to be us." -- Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad

 

Need to know

Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella left after the first period with a lower-body injury. Housley said he is day-to-day. … Barkov extended his point streak to five games (four goals, four assists) and has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in his past 10 games. 

 

What's next

Sabres: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN4, NHL.TV)

Panthers: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-F, NBCSP, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Panthers top Sabres, 4-1, for fifth straight win

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