SUNRISE, Fla. - Jack Eichel scored to make it 1-0 entering the third period, but a string of three quick goals by the Florida Panthers proved to be the difference in what ended as a 4-2 loss for the Sabres at BB&T Center on Tuesday.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Jayce Hawryluk and Aleksander Barkov all scored in a span of 2:35 to turn what had been a one-goal Sabres lead into a two-goal deficit early in the third.
Eichel had what would have been his second goal of the game wiped out by an offside challenge later in the period, after which Huberdeau scored again to put the game out of reach. Vladimir Sobotka scored the Sabres' second goal with 7.9 seconds remaining.
The loss was Buffalo's third in a row.
"It's been a tough stretch for us, without a doubt," Eichel said. "It just seems like things are going the opposite way they were. It's an uphill climb for us right now."
The Sabres responded to what had been a quiet first period with a strong push in the second. They attempted 26 shots, including Eichel's power-play goal.
"I thought we got our forecheck going, I thought we finished our checks on their D, I thought we played a little more aggressive," Eichel said. "We've got to play aggressive. I think at times maybe we sit back, let teams take it to us a little too much."
Video: BUF@FLA: Eichel redirects Reinhart's feed for PPG
They nearly doubled their lead to begin the third on a shot from Conor Sheary that rung the post. Huberdeau tied the game at the 3:07 mark, streaking alone down the right-wing side and tucking a shot between the pads of Linus Ullmark.
Huberdeau's goal seemed to create a snowball effect. Hawryluk capitalized on a turnover in the Sabres zone after Ullmark stopped him a 2-on-1 rush the shift prior. Barkov put the puck between his legs to burst behind the Sabres defense before beating Ullmark from in-tight.
"We got that all-important first goal," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We hit a pipe, we could have made it 2-0, then it's just a span where we give up a breakaway, we win a faceoff and don't execute. But we can't give up that third goal, and that was a tough one."
Eichel buried a crossing feed from Zach Bogosian with 7:07 remaining to momentarily bring the Sabres back within a goal, but officials determined upon video review that he had entered the zone off side.
"I'm trying to make a play at the blue line," Eichel said. "It's bang-bang. It's pretty close. It's tough. What's the rule? You've got to have full possession. I think I had half possession, my feet came over first, so it's tough. Maybe it's a turning point in the game for us, maybe it's not. I'm not sure."
Ullmark finished the game with 37 saves on 41 shots. James Reimer made 32 saves for the Panthers.
Video: BUF@FLA: Ullmark denies Hoffman on the rebound
The loss was a missed opportunity to gain ground in the standings. The Sabres remain six points out of the second Wild Card, occupied by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"We've just got to keep believing and keep fighting, keep pushing forward," Housley said. "I think the main thing is we've just got to worry about our own game at critical times and just focus in on that."
With a tall test awaiting them in Tampa on Thursday, Jake McCabe looked ahead to the road trip finale as an opportunity to right the ship.
"Nobody feels sorry for us," McCabe said. "Nobody else around the league is looking at us and saying, 'Poor Buffalo Sabres.' We're the only ones who are going to get ourselves out of this, so we've just got to come to work against Tampa.
"Best team in the league, so it's going to be a good task for us. That'd be something that could jumpstart us here at the end of the year."
The Sabres conclude their three-game road trip against the Lightning on Thursday. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 7 p.m., or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7:30.
The team returns home on Saturday to host the Washington Capitals at 1 p.m.