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Wait ‘Til the End: Florida Panthers 3, Buffalo Sabres 2 (OT)

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Florida Panthers forward Kyle Okposo warms up before Saturday’s game against his former team, the Buffalo Sabres. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres got off to a wild start on Saturday, the two combining for four goals in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Then the two standout goalies entered the chat.

Both Sergei Bobrovsky and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen settled in after the opening round of goals as no one scored again until the game was all but done.

Sam Reinhart ended up being the difference, scoring with 1:02 left in overtime to give Florida a 3-2 win.

The Panthers took first place in the Atlantic by a point with the win — with Boston playing Pittsburgh later Saturday night.

Florida did clinch home ice in the first-round of the playoffs by getting the point.

Buffalo took the initial lead 2:59 into the game on a 50-foot shot from Rasmus Dahlin that clipped Tyson Jost along the way.

Anton Lundell tied it 2 minutes later on a ridiculous goal in which he had his back to the Buffalo goalie — yet sent a backhanded shot through.

Kevin Stenlund made it 2-1 on a shorthanded goal — only to see Buffalo tie it on that power play.

Buffalo had a great chance to take the lead in the second when Bobrovsky inadvertently kicked a puck he stopped toward the net; Sam Bennett grabbed it and got it out of trouble before it crossed the goal line.

Midway through the third, Buffalo defenseman Connor Clifton was given a match penalty after a head hit on Nick Cousins which gave Florida a 5-minute power play.

Late in the power play, one Florida did not score on, Cousins returned from the room.

— Florida played much of the game without defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson who left the game in the first period. He did not return. Florida categorized it as an upper-body injury.

Paul Maurice said it was not serious, although he does not expect OEL to play Tuesday.

— Bobrovsky played in his 700th NHL game.

GOALS OF THE GAME

  • Sabres 1, Panthers 0 (2:59, 1st): Rasmus Dahlin tossed one toward the net from the blue line and it deflected off Tyson Jost to get a wild first started.
  • Panthers 1, Sabres 1 (5:02, 1st): Anton Lundell gets his latest ‘goal of the year’ award for this beauty, sending a backhanded shot past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen while having his back toward the Buffalo goalie.
  • Panthers 2, Sabres 1 (8:11, 1st SH): Kevin Stenlund picks off Dahlin’s cross-ice past and bears down on Luukkonen, beating him with a smooth backhand-forehand move.
  • Sabres 2, Panthers 2 (9:48, 1st PP): Jack Quinn cleans up a big rebound off a shot from Bowen Byram.  
  • Panthers 3, Sabres 2 (3:58, OT): Sam Reinhart gets No. 55 off a nice pass from Sasha Barkov. He is now four back of Pavel Bure for most goals in franchise history in a single season with one to play.

FHN’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME

1. Sam Reinhart, Florida

2. Anton Lundell, Florida

3. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Buffalo

ON DECK

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: ESPN/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • This Season (Leafs Lead 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 3, Leafs 1 (Oct. 19); Tuesday. At Toronto: Leafs 2, Panthers 1 (Nov. 28); Leafs 6, Panthers 4 (April 1).
  • Last Season: Toronto won Regular Season Series 3-1; Florida won Eastern Conference Semifinals 4-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 50-37-7, 7 ties
  • END REGULAR SEASON
  • Up Next for the Panthers: GAME 1, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals; TBA

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