Panthers Pounce on Sabres, Dash Buffalo’s Playoff Hopes
Florida dominated most of the game, outscoring the visitors. Buffalo turned on the pressure in the third period, but it was too little, too late.
Score: Sabres: 1 Panthers: 2
Shots: BUF: 40 FLA: 36
Buffalo Sabres Goals: Dylan Cozens (29)
Florida Panthers Goals: Aaron Ekblad (13), Matthew Tkachuk (39)
Plus 1: Cozens Scores First
After the refs walked backed an Alex Tuch goal early in the period when Panthers coach Paul Maurice challenged him as offside, Dylan Cozens got a wrister past Florida goalie Alex Lyon to make it 1-0 Sabres. Cozens scored his 29th goal this season on the PP, which made it all the sweeter.
Fans love watching the Workhouse from Whitehorse make things happen, whether it’s with the man advantage or five-on-five. No. 24 is the glue that holds the Kid Line together and opposing goalies can never breathe too easy when he’s got the puck.
Plus 2: Levi Outstanding in Net Again
New Sabres goaltender Devon Levi played a great 60 minutes, stopping 34 of 36 shots and keeping Buffalo in the game through all three periods. While he unfortunately let in one more goal than Lyon, on a Matthew Tkachuk tip-in early in the third, Levi did his best to keep it close and unfortunately, Buffalo’s offense couldn’t take advantage of multiple scoring opportunities.
While he’s only played two NHL matchups, Levi currently enjoys a .939 SV% and 1.94 GAA. One of his best saves in this contest was a blocker on Anthony Duclair to ensure the score remained tied 1-1. If his skill so far is any indication, No. 27 could be a major netminding asset going forward.
Minus 1: Biased Refs Give the Panthers Gifts
Not only did the officials take away Tuch’s goal on a questionable offside, they penalized Tyson Jost twice in the first period. The zebras blew the whistle on him in an almost unheard of delay of game face-off violation and made him sit in the box again for interference against Anton Lundell.
As Marty Biron pointed out on MSG, Lundell slashed Jost in the legs, but instead of giving Lundell two minutes, the refs penalized Jost. Aaron Ekblad then got a power play goal, tying the score and shifting the game’s momentum. Late in the third period, officials gave Florida a pair of tripping penalties, but by that point, there was too little time for Buffalo’s offense to capitalize.
Sabres fans are tired of watching the refs continue to favor Buffalo’s opponents game in and game out, season after season. Unfortunately, it seems like there’s no end in sight.
Minus 2: Lack of Consistent O & D Dooms Postseason
The Sabres struggled through much of the game, especially during the second period. The host team swarmed around Buffalo’s net like a group of red-jerseyed killer bees, stinging Levi repeatedly with scoring chances.
Shots were 14-14 during the first, but the Panthers outshot the Sabres 14-8 in the second, and the Blue and Gold didn’t have much of an answer. Buffalo didn’t step up the pressure until the second half of the third period, after giving up a lead and desperately trying to score a tying goal that never came. Lack of consistent hockey has hurt the Sabres all season and the latest loss in Florida was no exception.
Fangorn had the Comment of the Game: “It’s clear we just aren’t yet ready. I’m heartbroken once again but that’s my fault for drinking the coolaid all season. I’m still proud of what they did this year. We are no longer the joke of the league and that feels great. The whole league is going to be afraid of us next year.”
The Buffalo Sabres showed they have the talent to win and were the victors in some close contests in 2022-23. If Levi was available earlier, maybe the team wouldn’t be chasing a wild card spot that seems as out of reach as a prize in a claw machine. The team is very close and maybe, with a little more discipline, will finally end their playoff drought.
The Sabres host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. at KeyBank Center.