April 8, 2018 / 2:12 AM / 16 days ago

Three-goal first leads Panthers past Sabres

The Florida Panthers, who were eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the day, defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Saturday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Florida was ruled out mathematically when the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, clinching a playoff berth.

The Panthers were missing center Aleksander Barkov, who made the All-Star Game for the first time this year but suffered an upper-body injury on Thursday against the Boston Bruins. It was just the second game Barkov missed all season.

But even without Barkov, the Panthers had plenty of offense as Jonathan Huberdeau, Colton Sceviour, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck all scored goals.

Huberdeau, Sceviour and Trocheck were moved up to a reworked top line, making up for the loss of Barkov.

Backup goalie James Reimer (38 saves) earned the win as starter Roberto Luongo rested. On Thursday, Luongo became just the third NHL goalie to play 1,000 games.

The win was Florida’s 27th home victory of the season, breaking the previous franchise record.

While Florida has one more game remaining — at the Boston Bruins on Sunday — Buffalo (25-45-12) finished last in the NHL with 62 points. The Sabres also allowed the second-most goals in the league. In their past six games, they allowed 30 goals.

Sabres goalie Chad Johnson (nine saves) allowed three goals in the first period and was then replaced by 25-year-old Adam Wilcox, who made his NHL debut and stopped all 14 shots he faced.

The Sabres avoided a shutout when they scored two goals - from Jason Pominville and Sam Reinhart — within 21 seconds late in the third period.

Florida scored three goals within 11 minutes in a dominant first period.

After Buffalo’s Josh Gorges and Brendan Guhle were sent off, each for tripping, the Panthers took advantage and scored on a 5-on-3 power play. Huberdeau scored by deflecting a Trocheck shot.

The Panthers made it 2-0 when Frank Vatrano’s rebound bounced in off of Sceviour’s body. The period’s final highlight was Bjugstad’s goal, which was set up by Evgenii Dadonov’s brilliant behind-the-back touch pass.

The Panthers then held on after Pominville’s wrist shot went in after hitting Reimer’s glove and Reinhart’s goal — with 4:09 left in the third — made things interesting.

Trocheck’s goal, his team-best 31st of the season, came on an empty-netter with 1:23 left in the game. And a power-play goal by Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly closed the scoring with 17 seconds remaining.

—Field Level Media

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