SUNRISE, FLORIDA –
Penalty trouble eventually caught up to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
In an afternoon affair against the Florida Panthers at BB&T center, the Sabres committed seven minor penalties through the first two periods, resulting in 11:21 of power-play time for the Panthers. Florida capitalized twice and by the end of it, came out on top 5-3.
Michal Neuvirth kept Buffalo in it for as long as he could. He stopped 26 shots through two periods and finished with 42 stops. Neuvirth has made eight-straight starts for the Sabres and has stopped 94.2 percent of the shots he’s faced over that span.
The Sabres jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Cody Hodgson and Andrej Meszaros before the Panthers scored three in the second to go ahead.
Torrey Mitchell tied the game with 7:06 left in regulation but Scottie Upshall potted the eventual game winner 1:42 later on a rush. Derek MacKenzie would add an empty-netter with 16.2 seconds remaining.
Buffalo was able to stay out of the box in the third period and that allowed them to get back into the game.
Our discipline wasn’t there tonight,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said.
“You get lucky for a little bit of time and then all of a sudden you give a team like this opportunities with that many skilled guys up front, it’s a matter of time before they get it.
“We kept giving them opportunities. We stayed out of the box at least in the third period. It gave us a little bit of a chance and then missed assignments on that go-ahead goal.”
Thing started off well as Sabres had a strong first period. They scored twice in the first 7:18 as Hodgson opened the scoring with a big slap shot 2:57 in and then at the 7:18 mark, Andrej Meszaros’ long shot crept through Roberto Luongo’s pads and into the back of the net.
But a big second period helped the Panthers go into the third period ahead 3-2. Florida outshot Buffalo 19-4 in the middle frame.
“It looked like they wanted to win more than us tonight,” Neuvirth said. “They’re fighting for the playoffs and you could tell after the first, they were just all over us.”
The first two Panthers goals were almost identical to one another. With four seconds left in a six-second two-man advantage, Brandon Pirri rocketed a one-timer from the right point past Neuvirth with 7:59 remaining in the second.
Then 1:23 later, the Panthers won another defensive zone faceoff and the puck found its way to Pirri, who once again ripped a slap shot in.
“We’ve got to do a better job staying out of the penalty box and we’ve got to know to that the position we’re in, we’re not going to get too many calls, either, going our way,” Mike Weber said. “Staying sharp on the kill, too. Both those goals, obviously those are great shots, but if we’re our system right, if we’re doing the right things, it might deter those opportunities.”
Buffalo had gotten into penalty trouble on Sunday against the Nashville Predators, resulting in a 2-1 shootout loss. Buffalo’s penalty kill went 7-for-8 in that game. Obviously, Buffalo wasn’t even able to manage a point against Florida.
“You can’t expect your PK to go 8-for-8. Not in this League,” Chris Stewart said. “But we were in it until the end. I thought we played 60 minutes and we started strong. We had our chances, tied up the game late. A bad break there and Upshall puts it home. They’re a playoff team and they’re hungry. They’re not going to play dead.”
The next big date on the calendar is Monday with the NHL Trade Deadline set for 3 p.m. Saturday could have marked the final game for several players in a Sabres uniform.
Buffalo next plays Tuesday night in Tampa on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.