SUNRISE, Fla. – Penalty troubles plagued the Buffalo Sabres on Friday and the Florida Panthers only needed to capitalize on two of their eight power-play opportunities to skate away with two points.
Jesse Winchester and Dmitry Kulikov each scored with the man advantage and Roberto Luongo made 25 saves in his return to the Panthers as Florida defeated Buffalo 2-0 at BB&T Center.
“We shot ourselves in the foot for the second game in two nights,” Sabres alternate captain Christian Ehrhoff said. “When you have to kill that many penalties, it’s tough. It takes a lot of energy out of you and we didn’t get enough offensive zone time again tonight. It wasn’t good enough.”
The game didn’t start the way the Sabres would have liked it to. Matt D’Agostini went to the box for delay of game after flipping the puck over the glass in the defensive zone 4:41 into the game. Then, with 25 seconds remaining in the penalty, Marcus Foligno was charged with a five-minute penalty for boarding and a game misconduct after hitting a falling Brandon Pirri into the Buffalo bench.
With five seconds left in the major, Winchester put the puck top shelf to open the scoring.
“I don’t think it was worthy of getting kicked out of the game,” Foligno said. “I think that put our team down in a very tough position and It was a tough call to make at that time.”
While he didn’t agree with the call, Foligno said he respects the decision of the officials. It’s also possible that the League could take additional action, but Foligno hopes that his lack of a prior history with supplemental discipline will play in his favor.
“You never want to get suspended. I want to be that player that’s a clean player,” he said. “I have been and I think I’m respectful when I’ve been hitting guys. I do it to take them out of the play but I don’t aim for injuring guys.”
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan also said there isn’t much use in arguing a call once the minds of the officials have been made up.
“What can you do? There’s no sense in arguing because they are what they are,” Nolan said. “Do you agree with them? No. But it is what it is.”
Michal Neuvirth started for Buffalo in his first game since being acquired from the Washington Capitals at the NHL Trade Deadline on Thursday. He was busy early and often. He even stopped a penalty shot midway through the second period.
“I was very impressed. He was very calm. His rebound control was solid. He had great positioning all night,” Nolan said.
Neuvirth made 42 games on Friday in his first game as a Sabre. His last start came on Feb. 4, a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
“The last time I played was before the [Olympic] break, so the first time with a new team and for sure, I was nervous,” he said. “…I’ve been practicing hard, but a game is definitely a story.”
The Sabres lost three players due to injury in their last game on Thursday. Zemgus Girgensons, Chris Stewart and Torrey Mitchell all left the game with lower-body injuries, forcing the Sabres to make some call-ups before the game.
Nicolas Deslaurier, whom the Sabres also picked up at the deadline, made his NHL debut and Luke Adam returned to the Buffalo lineup.
Nolan liked what he saw from Deslauriers in his 15:08 of ice time, which included time on special teams as well.
“I thought he looked really good for a big man,” Nolan said. “He has a good, quick release. He finishes his checks. You could tell where he came from and he got good tutelage. He’s almost ready for primetime.”
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer sustained a lower-body during the first period and will miss a week or two according to Nolan. He said a defenseman will likely be called up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to play Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Sabres and Blackhawks face off at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at First Niagara Center.