The Florida Panthers played one of their most complete games on the defensive end of the ice to take down the high-octane Buffalo Sabres.
Buffalo came into the afternoon leading the NHL with 3.85 goals per game on the year and a power play that was tied for third in the league.
Aside from an odd-angled goal from Alex Tuch, the Panthers kept the Sabres at bay throughout the afternoon in a 4-1 win at KeyBank Center to kick off a three-game trip which continues Tuesday in Toronto.
It was a two points the Panthers needed desperately, as they were tied with the Sabres in the standings heading into the day — they now take the four-point swing to move up to 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Florida got goals from Brandon Montour, Sam Bennett, Anton Lundell and Carter Verhaeghe with Sergei Bobrovsky making 28 saves in the win.
The Sabres still have three games in hand but it is a start for a Florida team that starts a stretch of three of its next five against Eastern Conference contenders.
That will start on Tuesday in Toronto and wrap up with a back-to-back against the host Rangers and Penguins.
Monday’s game provided some signs that the Panthers could make their first sustained run of the season.
Florida was able to limit Buffalo’s scoring chances and keep the puck away from the slot and Bobrovsky came up with the saves Florida needed.
He made plenty of saves before Tuch spoiled the shutout with a rebound goal with 8:33 to go.
That was all the Sabres could muster up as the Panthers’ stars took over and gave them the three goals they needed to put them on top.
Florida has now won five of seven games for the first time all season and now has a chance to win three in a row for the first time all year on Tuesday.
THE GOALS OF THE GAME
- Panthers 1, Sabres 0 (4:01, 1st): Brandon Montour jammed in a rebound from in close to give the Panthers the early lead.
- Panthers 2, Sabres 0 (8:04, 2nd): Sam Bennett banged home a slap shot from the slot off of a wacky bounce from a Carter Verhaeghe pass.
- Panthers 3, Sabres 0 (0:44, 3rd): Anton Lundell snapped a Sam Reinhart feed home off the rush on the first shift of the period.
- Panthers 3, Sabres 1 (11:27, 3rd): Alex Tuch scored on a wide-angle shot to end Bobrovsky’s shutout bid with 8:33 to go.
- Panthers 4, Sabres 1 (18:22, 3rd): Carter Verhaeghe got in on the fun with an empty net goal to put this game on ice.
PENALTY KILL LOOKS GOOD
The Panthers’ penalty kill has been on a solid run as of late and it was no different on Monday.
Florida continued to be aggressive in the passing lanes and it clogged up every possible option for Buffalo’s power play.
When the Sabres were able to get shots off, Radko Gudas and Marc Staal came up with big blocks to keep the puck away from the slot.
They finished the game 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
PANTHERS CONTINUE TO BE SLOW IN 3RD
As complete of a game Florida had in the first two periods, the third was not pretty.
The Panthers effectively turtled after Lundell’s goal, getting outshot 13-5 and getting beat 14-0 in scoring chances and 7-0 in high-danger chances.
It was a problem that persisted when they nearly blew a three-goal lead in Colorado and did persist when they blew a lead in Vegas but Bobrovsky was able to help shut things down.
GRIGORI DENISENKO SLOTS IN NICELY
The Panthers called up Grigori Denisenko from AHL Charlotte ahead of Monday’s game and he inserted himself into the lineup quite well.
He had a shot on goal and a blocked shot in 10:49 of time-on-ice and put himself in a great spot to score on the power play before he got his stick lifted at the last second.
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida (28 saves)
2. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida (3 assists)
3. Brandon Montour, Florida (goal)
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Toronto leads 45-35-7, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Montreal, 7 p.m.