March 3, 2018 / 3:36 AM / 22 days ago

Panthers cruise past Sabres for 5th straight win

The Florida Panthers won their fifth straight game, defeating the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Florida is 12-3-0 since the end of January. On this homestand, the Panthers have beaten four teams in playoff position.

Florida got goals from defensemen Mike Matheson and Aaron Ekblad and from forwards Aleksander Barkov and Colton Sceviour. Nick Bjugstad and Evgenii Dadonov each had two assists.

Buffalo, which is in last place in the Eastern Conference, got a goal from Sam Reinhart. The Sabres are still without star center Jack Eichel, who has an ankle injury.

The Panthers won a battle of backup goalies as James Reimer made 24 saves in his first start since Feb. 18. It was his fifth win in his past seven starts.

Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, who made his first start since Feb. 24, came up with 26 saves. He has lost seven of his past nine starts.

Florida needed just 85 seconds to open the scoring. The Panthers won a faceoff, and passes by Jamie McGinn and Jared McCann got the puck to Matheson, who beat Lehner from the right circle.

Buffalo tied the score at 1 just four minutes later on their second shot on goal. Reinhart scored on a rebound off a point shot by Ryan O’Reilly.

Florida took a 2-1 lead with 3:19 left in the first period, and the goal once again came after a faceoff win. After passes from Dadonov and Keith Yandle, Ekblad shot from just about the same spot as Matheson.

The Panthers extended their lead to 3-1 with 6:49 gone in the second period. A save by Reimer led to a Panthers breakout. Bjugstad fed Barkov in full stride. With Sabres defenseman Justin Falk bearing down on him, Barkov beat Lehner on a backhander.

Florida went up 4-1 with 11:16 expired in the second as Sceviour scored on a rebound of a Bjugstad shot.

—Field Level Media

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