4 Observations: Sabres hold off Panthers in 3-2 shootout win

Sports

Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) and Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau (11) collide during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Casey Mittelstadt scored the game winner in Friday night’s 5-4 shootout win over the Florida Panthers.

With the win, Buffalo matches best five game stretch to start since a season since 2009, when the Blue & Gold also opened the year by going 4-0-1.

Here are four observations from the win.

Finding A Way

The Good: For a second straight game the Sabres blew a two goal lead in the third period…and for a second straight game found a way to pickup two critical points early on in the season.

The Bad: The sentiments inside the locker room was the team wasn’t aggressive enough over the final 20 minutes and “sat back” allowing Florida to claw it’s way back into the game.

Krueger has mentioned multiple times since the season has started this team is in the deep learning phase of creating an identity.

But, that mentality is a bad habit was a trademark of the Sabres struggles a year ago, and one they have to kick.

Ullmark outduels Bobrovsky

If there is a netminder teams are going to struggle to score against in the NHL, it’s the Panthers Sergei Bobrovsky.

The two-time Vezina winner has a .919 save percentage in his career — which ranks 11th all-time in league history.

Linus Ullmark matched one the all-time greats, who made several incredible stops of his own, to pick up his first victory of the season.

In the first period, Ullmark turned away two high-danger chances from the slot and flashed the leather as he snagged an absolute rocket off the stick of wide open Mike Hoffman to keep the game scoreless.

While Ullmark was brick wall in the crease, stopping 36 of the 38 shots he made, with his lone mistake coming in the third period on Evgeni Dadonov’s tally.

Even as Florida made a push in the third period with a power play and by hemming the Blue & Gold in their own, Ullmark continued to provide a steady presence in the net.

Granted the Panthers tied the game with an extra attacker, Ullmark stood tall in over time and the shootout, stoning Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov to help secure the win.

While Ullmark was sensational, the save of the night actually belonged to Marco Scandella, who managed to keep this puck of the net:

22-28-21

Remember when you would cringe every time that line would step onto the ice a year ago?

What a difference a year, and a new head coach, can make.

Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo combined for one goal and two points through the first four games of the season. While the production hasn’t been there, that group has been a bright spot generating scoring chances on a near nightly basis.

That trend continued for the first 39 minutes against the Panthers, with Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo being turned away on Grade-A chances — before the trio finally broke through in the final minute of the second period.

As Okposo entered the zone, he feathered a pass under the stick of Anton Stralman to a streaking Larsson — who flipped the puck over a sprawling Bobrovsky for his first goal of the season.

To open the third period, the trio came through again as Girgensons dropped a pass off to Okposo, who fed the puck to Marco Scandella for the easy tally.

Secondary scoring has been an issues for the Blue & Gold in recent years, but if those three can continue to play well and put pucks in the net, it can only help in the Sabres return to respectability.

Pass Happy

One of the early season trademarks of the Sabres’ success has been their crisp, quick passing. Friday night, the Blue and Gold were a bit too pass happy and passed up (no pun intended) too many scoring opportunities.

In the second period, the Sabres’ top line of stars played hot potato and missed a chance to pot one on rush but came up empty.

Even on the power play the Blue & Gold’s shot mentality wasn’t necessarily there tonight.

Bottom line: When you get pucks to the net, good things can happen — don’t get too cute.

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