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game recap

Skinner scores twice, Sabres hold off Panthers without Eichel

Reinhart has goal, assist to end three-game skid

by Heather Engel / NHL.com Correspondent

Skinner's impressive tally

FLA@BUF: Skinner wires shot past Luongo while falling

Jeff Skinner dangles through the Panthers' defense before firing a wrister from the slot past Roberto Luongo to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead

  • 00:53 •

BUFFALO -- Jeff Skinner scored twice to help the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers at KeyBank Center on Thursday.

"I thought the team played well," Skinner said. "It was a good team win here, contributions from everyone."

Tage Thompson scored, and Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist for the Sabres (22-13-6), who ended a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) and defeated the Panthers for the first time in eight games. Linus Ullmark made 35 saves.

Frank Vatrano and Mike Hoffman scored, Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist, and Robert Luongo made 29 saves for Florida (17-16-6).

 

[WATCH: All Panthers vs. Sabres highlights]

 

"It just looked like that no one really had any flow to their game," Florida coach Bob Boughner said. "It looked like we mismanaged the puck. And always, even after a slow start, you just wait for eventually some line is going to get you going and you're going to have back-to-back good shifts and get some momentum. And we never got the momentum back."

Buffalo was without center and captain Jack Eichel, who will miss at least one more game with an upper-body injury sustained against the New York Islanders on Monday.

Video: FLA@BUF: Thompson goes five-hole on Luongo

Skinner weaved around bodies into the slot to put the Sabres up 1-0 at 4:42 of the first period. The goal, his 27th of the season, moved him into sole possession of second place in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (30). He had been tied with John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Reinhart's assist on the goal was his 31st of the season, setting an NHL career high.

It was the seventh time in their past nine games that the Panthers fell behind 1-0 in the first period, including five within the first 5:15.

"It's not a good thing to be down right away in the first period," Barkov said. "It's hard in this league to come back. I know we can find a way to come back but we don't want that to happen anymore. We want to be leading after the first period and we want to be good at the beginning of the games."

Video: FLA@BUF: Barkov cleans up rebound on the doorstep

Thompson's shot from the right face-off circle made it 2-0 at 7:15. 

Vatrano cut it to 2-1 at 13:42 of the second period.

This was the third straight game between the Sabres and Panthers that Buffalo held a 2-1 lead. Buffalo lost the previous two, 5-2 at home Dec. 18 and 3-2 at Florida in overtime Nov. 30.

"We knew the result that we got last time we played them, and it wasn't what we wanted," Thompson said. "I think we went into tonight's game with a chip on our shoulder and played that way for a full 60."

Reinhart restored Buffalo's two-goal lead when he tipped Lawrence Pilut's shot at 1:20 of the third period to make it 3-1.

Video: FLA@BUF: Reinhart deflects Pilut's shot past Luongo

"Obviously we haven't gotten the results the past little while that we'd like, but it's a tough league and you're going to go through those stretches," Skinner said. "You've got to stick with your game, take out the positives and build on them. [Reinhart] gets a big goal there, gives us a lift."

Hoffman got to a loose puck in front and scored a power-play goal to make it 3-2 at 12:15.

Skinner extended the Buffalo lead to 4-2 with a shot from the left dot with 3:46 left, but Barkov brought the Panthers to within 4-3 when he slid a shot by Ullmark with 1:29 remaining and Luongo pulled for an extra attacker.

"We kept coming at the end," Boughner said. "We found a way to get three goals but it was a tough loss just because it's an important game. They are all important these days but just as a team, we weren't really good tonight."

Video: FLA@BUF: Hoffman backhands home loose puck for PPG

 

They said it

"We made a strong pushback in the second. I thought we were the better team in the second period and then the third was kind of back and forth. It's never easy to come back from two goals against any team in this league." -- Panthers forward Mike Hoffman

 

"He's been really getting some looks. He's been attacking the game off the wing, shooting the puck and finally got rewarded. He even said it himself, that he's got to continue to do that, he'll find the net." -- Sabres coach Phil Housley on forward Tage Thompson, who ended a 14-game goal drought

 

Need to know

The Sabres last defeated the Panthers 4-3 in a shootout Dec. 20, 2016, at Florida. … Skinner has 10 points (eight goals, two assists) in his past eight games against the Panthers. … Hoffman's 19 goals and 10 power-play goals lead Florida. … Barkov has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in his past nine games.

 

What's next

Panthers: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-O, NHL.TV) 

Sabres: At the Boston Bruins on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NESN, MSG-B, NHL.TV)

Video: Skinner, Reinhart lead Sabres past Panthers, 4-3

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