BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Defenseman Alex Petrovic scored in the opening minute of the second period to cap Florida’s four-goal opening surge, and the Panthers coasted to a 7-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
Florida scored seven goals for the second time this season after managing just two in its past two games, including a 3-0 loss at Detroit on Monday night.
Reilly Smith scored twice, including an empty-netter, and added an assist. Petrovic, Jussi Jokinen and Brian Campbell had a goal and assist apiece for the Atlantic Division leaders.
Rookie Sam Reinhart scored two second-period power-play goals for Buffalo. Evander Kane and Mike Weber scored goals in the final 10 minutes of the third period.
Florida’s Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots to improve to 14-2-2 in his past 18 starts. Luongo appeared in his 906th career game, tying Glenn Hall for sixth on the NHL goalie list.
Jaromir Jagr and Brandon Pirri also scored in helping Florida improve to 6-1-1 in its past eight. The Panthers improved to 8-0-2 in their past 10 games at Buffalo, where they haven’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 loss on March 25, 2011.
Buffalo can’t seem to be able to beat anyone at home. The Sabres are 1-7-2 in their past 10 home games, and 9-16-3 overall.
The game was decided in the first 21 minutes, when the Panthers built a 4-0 lead on 12 shots, and chased Sabres starting goalie Robin Lehner.
Smith opened the scoring by blasting a shot in off the crossbar with a one-timer from the top of the right circle 7:40 in. Campbell scored 3:05 later with a shot from the left circle that appeared to deflect in off the stick of Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
The Sabres were booed off the ice after the first period, and shortly after Jokinen made it 3-0 with 25 seconds left in the frame.
And there were even more boos heard 22 seconds into the second period, when Petrovic’s bouncing shot from the right circle beat Lehner on the short side.
Reinhart gave the Sabres brief life by scoring power-play goals a little under four-minute apart.
The Panthers, however, stemmed Buffalo’s momentum when Pirri deflected in Campbell’s point shot to put Florida up 5-2, eight minutes into the second period.
Kane provided the crowd a lift by winning three fights over Petrovic before the two were ejected with 7:57 left in the third period.
The two also squared off twice in the second period, with the Sabres forward dropping the Panthers player to the ice both times. After the second fight, Kane drew a big cheer when he raised two fingers on one hand and none in the other and mouthed the words “two-and-oh” to indicate his record against Petrovic.
During their third fight, Kane caught Petrovic with several punches to the face.
NOTES: Jagr scored his 739th career goal, two shy of matching Brett Hull for third on the NHL list. … Panthers center Aleksander Barkov did not play after sustaining an upper-body injury against Detroit. The Panthers recalled forward Garrett Wilson from AHL Portland, and also placed D Erik Gudbranson (upper body) on injured reserve. … Sabres LW Marcus Foligno returned after missing one game with a bruised leg. C Zemgus Girgensons sat out after hurting his upper body in a 2-1 overtime loss at Boston on Saturday. … With 32 wins through 54 games, the Panthers are off to their second-best start in franchise history according to STATS. Florida had 33 wins through 54 games in 1995-96.
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