At The Final Horn | Sabers unable to complete rally against Panthers

The Buffalo Sabers couldn’t rally all the way back Sunday afternoon in a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers at KeyBank Center.

Down 4-1 early in the third period, Buffalo scored twice in quick succession before penalties late in the game snuffed the comeback effort.

Kyle Okposo, Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson scored for Buffalo. Dustin Tokarski stopped 35 shots.

For Florida, Anthony Duclair scored twice while Jonathan Huberdeau, Anton Lundell and MacKenzie Weegar tallied. Spencer Knight made 26 saves.

With the victory, Florida became the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth this season.

Buffalo’s power play was 2-for-2 and the penalty kill was 2-for-3, but allowed a 5-on-3 goal in the final two minutes of the game.

How it happened

Video: FLA @ BUF: Okposo directs Samuelsson’s shot inside post

The Sabers struck first with 2:47 left in the opening period when Okposo redirected in a point shot by Mattias Samuelsson. The goal was Okposo’s 18th of the season.

The Panthers tied the game 6:18 into the second period when on a passing play down low, a feed from Huberdeau deflected off Samuelsson and in past Tokarski. With the goal, Huberdeau recorded his 97th point of the season, setting a Panthers single-season record.

Florida took the lead with 4:05 remaining in the second when Lundell knocked in a loose puck not long after an offensive zone faceoff win by the Panthers.

Just 1:06 later, a wrist shot by Duclair from the right faceoff circle put the Panther up 3-1.

Duclair scored his second the day 57 seconds into the third period to make it a three-goal game.

Video: FLA @ BUF: Skinner buries 3rd effort in behind Knight

Buffalo got back on the board at the 8:25 mark thanks to Skinner, but it wasn’t called a goal right away. With Knight way out of the net, Skinner capitalized in front, but at first, officials declared it no goal due to goaltender interference.

Buffalo challenged the play, and upon review, it was called a good goal.

Here is the NHL’s official explanation:

Video review determined that Florida’s Ben Chiarot pushed Buffalo’s Casey Mittelstadt causing the contact with goaltender Spencer Knight. The decision was made in accordance with Note 2 of Rule 38.11 (ii) which states, in part, that the goal should be allowed because “the attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by the defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper. ”

Skinner now has 28 goals on the year.

Skinner then found Thompson on the power play 1:54 later to get the Sabers back within one.

As Buffalo was staging its comeback, the team found itself down two men due to back-to-back penalties.

With 1:35 left, the Weegar scored 20 seconds into the 5-on-3 to go ahead 5-3.

Roll the highlight film

Here’s Thompson’s goal to make it 4-3:

Video: FLA @ BUF: Thompson brings Sabers within 1 with PPG

Worthy of a mention

Thompson’s goal today gave him 35 points (22 + 13) in 35 home games this season. He is tied for fifth in the NHL in home goals this season.

Coming up

The homestand concludes on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Faceoff is set for 7 pm on ESPN + and Hulu. A subscription is required to watch the game. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the radio call on WGR 550.

Tickets are on sale now.

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