Huberdeau scores 2 as Panthers beat Sabres 4-2
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Panthers are playing their best hockey of the season now. They’re hoping it’s not too late.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored two goals and had an assist to lead the Panthers to a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
Aleksander Barkov had a goal and two assists, Jayce Hawryluk also scored and Frank Vatrano had two assists for the Panthers. James Reimer made 32 saves for his third straight win.
Florida won its third straight to improve to 9-4-0 in its last 13 games, and now trails Columbus by nine points for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
“Win every game,” Huberdeau said. “I don’t think it matters whatever game, how many games. You’ve just got to win every game now.”
The Panthers had a late-season surge last season, winning 25 of their last 35 games, but missed the playoffs despite finishing with 96 points.
“We feel good about the way we’ve been playing and the recipe for success that’s been working for us,” coach Bob Boughner said. “It’s not over till it’s over. Now you have to scoreboard watch and worry about other teams.”
Jack Eichel and Vladimir Sobotka scored for the Sabres and Linus Ullmark stopped 37 shots. Buffalo has lost three straight games and is six points behind Columbus.
“I think right now we’re a fragile group for sure,” Eichel said. “It’s been a tough stretch for us, without a doubt. It just seems like things are going the opposite way they were. It’s an uphill climb for us right now.”
Trailing 1-0, the Panthers scored three goals in 2:35 of the third.
Huberdeau tied it when his shot from the low slot went between Ullmark’s pads at 3:07. Florida went ahead after Vincent Trocheck’s shot caromed off the post and bounced off Hawryluk and into the net at 3:50. Barkov tucked the puck from in close behind Ullmark at 5:42 to make it 3-1.
“We can’t give up that third goal. That was a tough one. And then we’re chasing it again,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. ”(We) just got to keep believing and keep fighting. Keep pushing forward.”
Huberdeau’s second goal with 3:25 left stretched the lead to 4-1.
Sobotka poked in the puck with 7.9 seconds left for the final margin.
The Sabres had a goal disallowed with 7:07 left when it was ruled they were offsides after the Panthers challenged.
“It’s bang-bang, it’s pretty close,” Eichel said. “It’s tough. Maybe it’s a turning point in the game for us, maybe it’s not. I’m not sure.”
The Sabres took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Eichel, who redirected a pass from Sam Reinhart into the net at 5:14 of the second.
NOTES: Sabres F Kyle Okposo is out with a concussion. ... C Zemgus Girgensons played in his 400th NHL game. ... D Marco Scandella is week-to-week with an upper-body injury. ... Panthers D Mike Matheson left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... G Roberto Luongo returned from bereavement leave and backed up Reimer.k ... C Mike Hoffman played in his 400th NHL game.
Sabres: At Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
Panthers: Host Carolina on Thursday night.