Score: Sabres 3 | Panthers 4
Shots: BUF 27 | FLA 37
Buffalo Sabres Goals: Alex Tuch (1), Zemgus Girgensons (1), Rasmus Dahlin (2)
Florida Panthers Goals: Colin White (1), Matthew Tkachuk (2), Aaron Ekblad (1), Brandon Montour (1)
Period 1: A Flurry of Goals
The Sabres definitely didn’t make it easy for Eric Comrie in his Buffalo debut. A dangerous Florida team quickly got its first power play opportunity less than three minutes in, and Buffalo had trouble keeping up. It took them over seven minutes before recording their first shot on goal, and they were lucky to pass the midway point scoreless.
Comrie stepped up from the get-go and made several huge saves to start the game. When Alex Tuch broke open the scoring on a semi-breakaway after picking up a beautiful pass from Henri Jokiharju, momentum shifted (if temporarily) in the Sabres’ favor. Comrie was credited with the secondary assist, the second point of his career. Who doesn’t love a goalie point?
Buffalo’s lead lasted only a few minutes before Colin White beat Comrie. Aleksander Barkov should have given Florida the go-ahead goal, but somehow whiffed on a shot that was a near-certain tally. Before the period was over, Matthew Tkachuk scored on a rebound. Tkachuk is, of course, new to to the Panthers - and the Atlantic Division - and he’s going to be a thorn in the side of a lot of teams. The Sabres got the first taste of that Saturday afternoon, between his scoring, a questionable hip check on Jokiharju, jabbing his stick butt into Tuch’s face, the end-of-game antics.
Anyways, circling back to the first period. Props to Buffalo on a quick response following the Tkachuk goal, as it took just 41 seconds for Zemgus Girgensons to tie the game. That’s the kind of response you want to see in this situation. JJ Peterka was also excellent on the play and earned an assist for his second NHL point.
Period 2: Penalty Troubles
If there’s one thing to avoid against a strong offensive team like the Panthers, it’s spending too much time in the penalty box. Unfortunately for the Sabres, that’s exactly what happened in the second period. Eight penalties overall, five of which came in the middle frame, isn’t going to help you win a hockey game. After coming into the second period in a 2-2 tie, a pair of power-play goals shifted the momentum in Florida’s favor. Buffalo gave Aaron Ekblad far too much space and he easily found a slot to shoot into, before old friend Brandon Montour jumped on a loose puck in the crease on an advantage late in the period.
With that said, while the team took too many penalties, at least a few of them came because players came to the defense of their teammates, which you always like to see. The Sabres don’t necessarily have any big body that I’d overtly call an enforcer or anything remotely close to that, but it’s important that guys like Rasmus Dahlin don’t have to fight their own battles all the time. You protect your star players.
Dahlin took it into his own hands, scoring with just under a minute left in the period. A slick move from Tuch put the puck on Dahlin’s stick. He then beat Radko Gudas and the goaltender, Spencer Knight, to put Buffalo within one.
Period 3: The Finish
Ultimately, although the Sabres had their fair share of chances in the third period, they couldn’t get to Florida’s level for that fourth goal. Peyton Krebs had a nice chance after exiting the penalty box, powered by offense from Dylan Cozens, but it didn’t materialize into a goal. To their credit, Krebs’ penalty was the only one for Buffalo in the third period after an undisciplined middle frame, and the Panthers almost instantly negated it with a pair of penalties of their own.
To no surprise, players from both teams came together at the buzzer. I’m sure they were just discussing their dinner plans, obviously. It took a bit for everyone to actually leave the ice, and Cozens and Tkachuk received roughing minors at the 20-minute mark. At any rate, these teams don’t see each other again until mid-January. A lot can happen between now and then, but some things, hockey players just never forget. We’ll see how much actually carries over.
Matthew Tkachuk is the kind of player you either love, or hate, depending on if he’s on your team or not. Call him whatever you want - a pest, a rat, whatever - but he’s also got the talent to back up his bull. You don’t get 104 points in a season just by being a bother.
I thought Eric Comrie looked good in his Sabres debut - better than I’d expected. The West Coast trip is sure to be interesting to see how Don Granato balances his goaltending, but we’ll see what happens come Tuesday and beyond.
Would’ve liked more ice time for Peterka and Quinn, both of whom played under 10 minutes. Rasmus Dahlin, on the other hand, played 26:30 - most of any skater on either team.
You’re not going to win every game, but the Sabres kept this one close against a tough Panthers team. Now, it’s time to watch some video, reflect on this one and get to focusing on the Oilers for Tuesday night.
1. Matthew Tkachuk (2 points, 20:00 ice time)
2. Aleksander Barkov (2 points, 21:41 ice time)
3. Eric Comrie (1 assist, 34 saves, including 9:15 of shorthanded time)