SUNRISE — We all know the Florida Panthers like coming back in games, but Thursday’s 7-4 win against the Buffalo Sabres was a little ridiculous.
The Panthers found themselves down three goals in the second period for the second consecutive game only this one felt a lot different than Tuesday’s deficit to the Washington Captials.
For one, the Sabres are not the Capitals.
Second, in the first 25 or so minutes of the game, if the Panthers did not have bad luck shooting the puck they would not have had any luck at all.
Everything was coming up Sabres — even if the Panthers were certainly the superior team on the ice.
And, as some were counting on, the better team wore the ice down and ended up pulling out the win.
Thursday’s game was a reunion of sorts as Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour faced their old teammates for the first time.
Vinnie Hinostroza, who had a forgettable tenure with the Panthers in the Covid 2021 season, was the Homecoming King for the night — at least for a bit.
Hinostroza, who had zero points in nine games with the Panthers, scored twice in the opening period as the Sabres took a 3-0 lead into the second.
Florida had the advantage in shots and scoring chances — Jonathan Huberdeau was hooked on a breakaway which was stopped a minute into the game — but couldn’t find the back of the net despite taking aim 23 times.
The Panthers would make some of their shots count in the second.
Down 3-0, Lucas Carlsson got his first NHL goal midway through the second as he slid through the slot and fired off a shot that beat Aaron Dell.
Buffalo got that goal back less than two minutes later and Sergei Bobrovsky got the rest of the night off. Spencer Knight came in down 4-1 despite the Panthers outshooting the Sabres 26-12.
Florida ended up dominating this game from there on out.
With 7:28 left in the second, Carlsson sent another shot to the net with Reinhart deflecting it through.
Three minutes later, Ekblad got his first of the night to make it 4-3 going into the third.
Over the first 40 minutes, the Panthers were outshooting the Sabres 34-13 while holding a shot advantage of 55-28.
The Sabres simply could not hold back the flood that was coming.
The Panthers opened the third on a power play and Ekblad tied it up as he quickly fired in a rebound off a MacKenzie Weegar shot which rang off the cage and landed right on Ekblad’s stick.
With 12:29 remaining, it looked like Buffalo broke the tie with a Zemgus Girgensons goal as Knight was out of the net.
But the replay showed — and the official saw — Eetu Luostarinen sweeping the puck before it fully crossed the goal line.
The puck went up the other way, Florida cycled it around and Anton Lundell broke the deadlock with his first goal since Nov. 6 against Carolina.
Florida wrapped the comeback up in a nice bow with Huberdeau strolling in to dump in an empty net goal with 1:23 remaining to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.
Huberdeau ended up with the five-point night, getting four assists.
Lundell then got his second with five seconds left.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Aaron Ekblad, Florida
2. Sam Reinhart, Florida
3. Vinnie Hinostroza, Buffalo
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
ST. LOUIS BLUES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560
- Last season: Did not play