Florida Panthers first NHL team to clinch playoff spot with win over Sabres

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Anthony Duclair scored twice, and Jonathan Huberdeau set the franchise record for single-season points as the Florida Panthers clinched a playoff berth with a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon.

Goalie Spencer Knight made 26 saves for the Panthers (48-15-6, 102 points). Florida’s 48th win broke the previous franchise record of 47 set in the 2015-2016 season. The Panthers also moved one point away from the franchise’s single-season record.

Duclair increased his career-best goal total to 28. Huberdeau, who also had a goal against the Sabres, has 97 points, while also leading the NHL with 73 assists.

The Panthers also received goals from rookie Anton Lundell, his first since March 5, and a late tally from MacKenzie Weegar.

Buffalo (25-34-11, 61 points) received goals from Kyle Okposo, Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson. Sabres goalie Dustin Tokarski made 35 saves.

Florida Panthers clinch playoff spot

florida panthers
Apr 3, 2022; Buffalo, New York, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar (52) celebrates his goal with teammates during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Sabres opened the scoring on Okposo’s deflection with 2:47 left in the first period. Mattias Samuelsson earned the primary assist.

In the second period, Knight made a big save on a Vinnie Hinostroza breakaway that would have increased the advantage to 2-0.

Instead, Florida finished the second period with three straight goals and a 3-1 lead.

Florida tied the score with 13:42 remaining in the second. The play started when Sabres defensemen Jacob Bryson slipped in his own end. Claude Giroux picked up the turnover and dished to Huberdeau, who beat Tokarski on a stick-side shot from the slot.

”We did it together,” Huberdeau said of Barkov while speaking to Bally Sports Florida during the second intermission. “It’s pretty cool to get the franchise record but it’s all about the team. I couldn’t do that without the guys.”

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The Panthers then scored twice within 66 seconds. First, Lundell won a draw and knocked in a rebound off a Ben Chiarot shot. Then, Duclair scored from the right circle on a slick cross-ice pass from Gustav Forsling.

Florida made it 4-1 on Duclair’s second goal, this one with just 57 seconds elapsed in the third period.

But the Sabres rallied with power-play goals by Skinner (with 11:35 left) and Thompson (9:41 remaining). The goal by Skinner was disallowed until the Sabres challenged, and the original call was overturned. After Duclair was penalized on a retaliation-slashing call, Skinner’s pass led to Thompson’s goal from the left circle.

That made the Sabres 2-for-2 on their power play, but Buffalo could not get the equalizer.
Florida iced the game on Weegar’s power-play goal with 1:35 remaining.

–Field Level Media