The underlying stats didn't reflect kindly on the Sabres against Florida Thursday night, but they won where it mattered most. Buffalo took advantage of its limited chances and held on to beat the Panthers, 3-2, to sweep its two-game southern swing and push its win streak to three games.
Florida controlled the play for much of the game, badly out-shooting, 38-18, and out-attempting, 64-33 (CF: 34%) the Sabres, but shot itself in the foot late in periods. Buffalo got goals from Brian Gionta and Cody Franson in the waning moments of both the first and second periods, respectively, to curb Florida's momentum.
Franson's tally was especially damaging, coming at the end of a second period where the Panthers doubled the Sabres up on shots and shot attempts, but were unable to break through on the scoreboard.
Linus Ullmark was high on the Panthers' list of frustrations as well. The rookie goaltender was stellar between the pipes, making 36 saves on the night, including a flurry of stops in the closing seconds of the game as Florida poured on the pressure after Vincent Trocheck pulled it within one.
The eventual game-winning goal came to start the third period off a gorgeous tip from Sam Reinhart on the Sabres' only power play opportunity of the game. It was great to see Reinhart rewarded for his solid play in front of the net this season. He's growing into a force in that spot, especially on the man advantage, which I doubt many would have predicted a year ago.
In addition to three straight, Buffalo has now won five of its last six and six of its last eight games.
Three Questions Answered
1. Can the Sabres reach the .500 mark?
Yes! For the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season (930 days ago), the Buffalo is a .500 team. The Sabres are now 8-8-0 (16 points) on the season and sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division.
2. Will Buffalo slow down Jaromir Jagr?
Jagr had one point on the night, creating the shot that led to Jonathan Huberdeau's game-tying goal in the second period. He also drew a couple of penalties, but the Panthers were unable to take advantage. Florida was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
3. For that matter, can Florida slow down Jack Eichel?
Eichel went relatively unnoticed tonight, as rookies are known to do from time to time. He didn't register a shot on goal and had a -18 on-ice Corsi differential.
Comment of the Game:
ULLMARK IS LOVE. ULLMARK IS LIFE