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No Shortage of Goals: Sabres Start Strong, But Ultimately Fall to Panthers

Buffalo’s struggles continue with yet another 7-4 loss

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Florida Panthers Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Score: Sabres 4 | Panthers 7

Shots: BUF 31 | FLA 45

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Vinnie Hinostroza (3,4), Dylan Cozens (7), Casey Mittelstadt (1)

Florida Panthers Goals: Lucas Carlsson (1), Sam Reinhart (6), Aaron Ekblad (7, 8), Carter Verhaeghe (1), Jonathan Huberdeau (8-EN), Anton Lundell (4-EN)

Plus 1: Vinnie & Dylan & Kyle

The Sabres have been playing a lot of catch-up after the first minutes of play in their games lately, so it was a breath of fresh air to watch a very strong, entertaining first period and a 3-0 lead going into the second period.

Following a tough penalty kill, Buffalo buried a beautiful goal thanks to Vinnie Hinostroza and soon after it would be Dylan Cozens to increase the lead with a nice addition himself. Both goals were top shelf, glove side. Towards the end of the period, Hinostroza tallied his second goal of the night with help from a Cozens pass in front of the net. Are we seeing a pattern here?

Kyle Okposo deserves a quick shoutout for his hard work tonight, too, especially on the second goal as he kept the puck in the Panthers zone and fed it perfectly to Cozens. Like him or not, the veteran always puts forth a strong effort. Okposo is on a five-game point streak with two goals and four assists and a +5. He even dropped his gloves at the end of the second period in response to Patric Hornqvist slapping Aaron Dell after a whistle blow.

Plus 2: “Welcome Back, Casey Mittelstadt!”

Following an upper body injury, back on the ice tonight was Casey Mittelstadt and it only took a period and a half for him to get his first goal of the season: right through the legs of superstar goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Mittelstadt left the first game of the season on October 14 and was on IR until today.

At this point, the Sabres led 4-1 and the Panthers quickly pulled Bobrovsky for Spencer Knight. Oh, how the tables would turn after the second period...

Minus 1: Gotta Keep That Lead

Thanks to a few careless penalties (cough, Pysyk, cough Jokiharju) heading into the third period, the Sabres blew their initial 4-1 lead when Florida tied it up just a minute into the final period. The Panthers then took their first lead of the game with 11:38 remaining in the game and never looked back. Making matters worse was former Sabre Sam Reinhart, who had a goal and three assists tonight and earned the third star of the game.

Following several power play chances that Buffalo simply could not produce on, Florida widened the gap with not one, but two empty net goals in the final two minutes of the game to give the home team a 7-4 victory. I feel like I am having deja vu with this score.

Final Thoughts

There are a few positives to take away from tonight (see above) despite the loss. Scoring has improved greatly since the release of perhaps the worst coach in Sabres history (whose name we will not utter here), so that is something that leaves us not-completely-hopeless. Obviously, goaltending is an ongoing issue, so it will be interesting to see how Malcolm Subban does when given the chance between the pipes in a Buffalo jersey.

Perhaps the toughest pill to swallow lately is Buffalo’s inability to bounce back after the opponent begins with the lead, or in tonight’s case, takes the lead after being behind the whole game. Either way, Don Granato has his hands full to fix this problem (which I truly believe can be fixed because the scoring is there).

The Sabres are back on the ice in Raleigh against the Hurricanes (who, coincidentally, have a very similar record to the Panthers) on Saturday night. Puck drop is at 7:30 PM. Hopefully the result will be different than tonight’s.