The Buffalo Sabres played in their third overtime game in a row on Friday, and this time 65 minutes just wasn't enough.
The Sabres entered their first shootout of the year and came away with a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at KeyBank Center.
Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt scored in the shootout and Linus Ullmark stopped both shots he saw to secure two points.
Since the beginning of training camp, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger has talked highly of the depth and balance among the team's four lines. Throughout regulation, he leaned heavily on the line of center Johan Larsson and wingers Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo, and the line stepped up to produce both of Buffalo's goals.
Larsson and defenseman Marco Scandella were the direct beneficiaries of the line's play as they each potted their first goals of the season.
Linus Ullmark was busy early for Buffalo and held strong to keep Buffalo in it, making 41 saves on the night. Girgensons and Larsson were also relied upon late in the defensive zone with the Panthers pressing, but with man advantage - and the misfortune of a broken stick for Larsson - allowed the Panthers to tie the game with 10.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Ullmark improved to 3-2 in his career in the shootout and has made 15 saves on 18 shots. According to @SabresPR, he owns the sixth-best career shootout save percentage (15-for-18, .833) of any NHL goaltender with at least 15 shots faced in shootouts.
How it happened
The two clubs traded chances early and both goaltenders were equal to the task. Both Ullmark and Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky were perfect through 20 minutes - and almost 40.
Larsson put Buffalo on the board with 30.7 seconds remaining in the second period, executing on a nice breakout play and then pulling off his best Bobby Orr impression, leaping over Bobrovsky's pads and into the endboards.
Scandella then tallied 2:02 into the third period, joining the rush and capitalizing on a crisp feed from Okposo.
The Panthers climbed back into the game at the 6:15 mark of the third when Evgenii Dadonov scored to make it 2-1.
Mike Hoffman then forced overtime in the 6-on-5 situation as Florida mounted a heavy assault in the final minutes of the game.
The teams trade chances in overtime, and Eichel in particular had two great opportunities to end it. Bobrovsky also stoned Mittelstadt on the doorstep with under a minute left in the extra period. Buffalo outshot Florida 5-2 in overtime.
Eichel and Mittelstadt got the last laugh as they both went on to beat Bobrovsky in the shootout.
What it means
As we noted in the Eaton Morning Skate Report, the Girgensons-Larsson-Okposo line generated a ton of chances through the first four games of the season. That continued on Friday night with the trio wreaking havoc in the Panthers zone and sustaining pressure in the offensive end.
And because of that effort, the team is off to a 4-0-1 start, their best five-game stretch to open a season since 2009-10.
Roll the highlight film
Watch some nice passing out of the zone for Buffalo's first goal of the game:
Video: FLA@BUF: Larsson lifts wrist shot past Bobrovsky
Sunday is a practice day so stay tuned for coverage here on Sabres.com while you're out picking pumpkins or raking leaves.
Then the team will play a matinee on Monday to wrap up the homestand. It'll be a 3 p.m. start from KeyBank Center against the Dallas Stars. The GMC Game Night pregame show on MSG will begin at 2:30 p.m.