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Panthers shut out Sabres for first win under Gallant

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo is making a habit of shutting out the Buffalo Sabres.

Luongo made 26 saves, and Sean Bergenheim scored his first goal of the season to help the Panthers to a 1-0 victory, their first of the season, against the Sabres at First Niagara Center on Friday.

"You got that guy back there and your team is so much more confident," Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said of Luongo. "He made saves all night, really good saves all night. It's amazing how he tracks the puck within those scrambles and is able to come up with pretty key saves. He did really well for us tonight."

The shutout was the 67th of Luongo's NHL career, passing Patrick Roy to tie Roy Worters for 13th place on the all-time list.

"I'm really focused on trying to get some wins here, and those kind of records are things you look back on when you're said and done," Luongo said. "It's a nice little something to have, but at the same time there are other things that are more important."

The win was Luongo's third consecutive shutout against the Sabres. He made 25 saves in a 3-0 win with the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 17, 2013 and 25 saves in a 2-0 win with the Panthers on March 7. He has four shutouts against Buffalo in 20 games.

"It's crazy," Luongo said. "I know I shut them out in Florida, too, for my first game, so it's nice. I don't know if it's a comfort-level thing or whatnot, but it's nice especially to get our first win like that."

The win was the first for coach Gerard Gallant with the Panthers, and his first in the NHL since Nov. 9, 2006, when his Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the St. Louis Blues.

After a scoreless first period, when the Panthers outshot the Sabres 16-3, Bergenheim scored 3:01 into the second. He picked up a loose puck from Brad Boyes and snapped a wrist shot between the legs of Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth, who was screened by Sabres defenseman Mike Weber.

"I like that my goals come from in front of the net, shooting quick or shooting a lot," Bergenheim said. "It's nice to see it go in, and maybe I was a little bit surprised but you've got to shoot."

The Panthers withstood a power-play threat from the Sabres when Gudbranson was called for hooking at 6:46 of the third period and forward Dave Bolland was called for high-sticking at 7:48. With 48 seconds of a 5-on-3, the Panthers killed the penalties.

"It was huge," Gallant said. "Special teams a lot of times win you the hockey game, and I think that kill won us the hockey game for sure. It would've been tough, late in the game, 1-0 all game and then all of a sudden you give up a goal real late like that, it would have been tough on us."

The Panthers attempted 64 shots and 35 were on goal. It's the first time this season the Sabres have not had 70 or more shots attempted against them.

"I could've saved one more puck, I guess," said Enroth, who saved 34. "It's hard to win games in this league, and we've got to put in a full 60-minute effort to win games this year."

The Sabres have lost four of their first five games and face the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

"We're trying to find ourselves, find out what type of team we are," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "The last game [at the Carolina Hurricanes, a 4-3 shootout win Tuesday] we played much better the first couple periods, we came out with some jump. Four games in a row we didn't have good third periods. The one good thing about tonight, we had a good, strong third period. I think the message here tonight, we have … to be a hardworking team. If we don't work hard all the time, from start to finish, it's going to be tough."

It was the first game between the top two picks of the 2014 NHL Draft: Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (No. 1) and Sabres forward Sam Reinhart. It's the earliest in the season the top two picks have played since Oct. 11, 1997, when Joe Thornton of the Boston Bruins faced Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks.

Bolland left with less than five minutes remaining in the third period with a lower-body injury. Gallant did not have an update following the game.

Florida plays at the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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