Panthers vs. Sabres Recap: Sabres Lose In a Weird Skills Competition

Rick Stewart

The Buffalo Sabres earn another point at home in a strange fashion with a shootout loss to the Florida Panthers.

Thursday night's Atlantic division matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers was setup to be a game that would be easily forgotten. A midweek game that featured two truly terrible teams wasn't going to draw much of a crowd. But, the Sabres elected to announce the hiring of their new general manager Tim Murray which figured to generate a little buzz. The first game in the Tim Murray era for the buffalo Sabres started to look like a total dud though as both teams came out flat. The two teams combined for 21 total shots in the first period, but neither side could generate anything that got the sparse crowd out of their seats. In fact, the period was so tight that the time of possession for both teams was separated by just one second.

But, the second period for the Sabres wasn't a total train wreck. Jamie McBain scored five minutes into the period and Jhonas Enroth continued to stand on his head. Through two periods Enroth was pitching a shutout with 25 saves. Enroth continued to have a solid game through the third period, eventually giving up his only goal of the night with ten minutes left in the game. Former Sabre Brad Boyes netted his 12th goal of the season on a tip in front of the net. Enroth was bailed out four times alone in the third period by the various posts that surround the net.

After both teams generated a few chances in the five minute overtime session, the game got weird when it went to the skills competition portion. After Tyler Ennis missed, Florida's Alexander Barkov scored what appeared to be the first goal in the shootout. After stick handling a couple of times to get Enroth moving, Barkov appeared to take Enroth into the net with the puck. The goal was disallowed because the judgement call was made that the shooter pushed the goaltender into the net. After Steve Ott missed in the third round, Brad Boyes sealed it for the Panthers with a goal that bounced off the post and then off Enroth and into the net. This goal was almost sent to Toronto for a review as well before it was determined by a conference of officials that it went in the net.

While the Sabres haven't been the most electric team, they have been a solid home team in the last month. With this shootout loss, the Sabres have picked up points in their last eight home games. The team's last regulation loss came on December 5th against the New York Rangers.

Brian Campbell's 800th game

Brian Campbell played in his 800th career NHL game against the Sabres on Thursday night. It was fitting that it came against the Sabres since he played almost half, 391 to be exact, of those career games in a Buffalo sweater. The Sabres organization seemed to have learned from their mistakes with Jason Pominville's return as they did recognize Campbell's accomplishment during a break in the action in the second period. It was short, sweet, and to the point and it gave the fans a chance to cheer a former hero for a few seconds. Maybe, just maybe, this organization is starting to figure things out again.

As for his performance in the game, Campbell very quietly played 30:58, which was eight minutes more than any other player on the ice from both sides. He had five shot attempts, none of which actually made the net and finished a +1.

Jhonas Enroth's performance

Jhonas Enroth has a 2.46 goals against average and .916 save percentage this season after Thursday night's game. If the season ended today, that would be a career best GAA for him. He was named to Sweden's Olympic team and may actually get to see some action there. His record on the other hand is 1-8-4, with his lone win coming in a 3-1 victory over these same Panthers.

Enroth's record and performance are at two complete ends of the spectrum and the easiest explanation for it is the goal support that he's receiving from the team in his starts. In the 14 games that Enroth has started, the Sabres as a team have scored 18 goals. Enroth's frustration with the team seemed to be neatly wrapped and delivered with his final quote in his post game media scrum. "It's tough to win with this team."

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