Aleksander Barkov had a goal and two assists, and the Florida Panthers won their third straight game by beating the Buffalo Sabers 6-1 on Monday night.
Anthony Duclair added a goal and an assist. Noel Acciari, Carter Verhaeghe and Patric Hornqvist also scored in a four-goal second period.
“We got to second, got our legs moving and that’s when we play our best,” Duclair said. “We kind of saw that when the boys were moving around, passing the puck pretty well.”
Mason Marchment had three assists and Sam Reinhart one in his first game at Buffalo after an offseason trade.
Former Saber Brandon Montour opened the scoring for the Panthers, who lead the NHL with an average of more than four goals per game. They outscored their opponents 15-3 during their winning streak.
Spencer Knight made 28 saves to earn his first start with the Panthers since Feb. 1 after being called up by the minors.
“Good to see him again,” Duclair said. “He’s obviously a very skilful and talented goalkeeper, and we’re just lucky to have him.
Florida opened a back-to-back trip with its fourth straight win on the road and eighth in 10 road games. The Panthers (38-13-5) edged Tampa Bay (37-12-6) in the Atlantic Division with 81 points and one extra game played.
John Hayden tipped Rasmus Asplund’s shot for Buffalo’s lone goal, ending Knight’s attempt for his first NHL shutout with 6:15 left in the third period. Craig Anderson stopped 25 shots for the Sabers, who lost their second straight after a two-game streak and fell to 2-8-0 in their last 10 games.
“I already looked at the schedule and saw that we will play them two more times,” Sabers coach Don Granato said. “I will remind our guys of this game, and it is a measuring stick for us.”
The Panthers scored their 10th power-play goal in eight games, and Jonathan Huberdeau recorded his NHL-best 59th assist when he set up Barkov for his team-leading 26th goal at 6:50 of the third period .
“We’ve done enough,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said. “I think we can do a little more. I thought we responded at times when we had to respond. We put signs of a very good team, maybe when you’re not at your best, but you find moments in the game to take control.
Florida took a 5-0 lead midway through the second period scoring four times in 6:48.
The push began at 5:54 into the period when Acciari scored his first in four games since returning from a preseason shoulder injury. Barkov fed Duclair for his 22nd on the power play 1:45 later. After four minutes without a goal, Verhaeghe scored his 17th and Hornqvist his ninth 1:03 apart.
Barkov’s pass behind the net put Montour in the slot for the Panthers’ 73rd first-period goal 5:22 into the game.
The Panthers beat their opponent for the 13th consecutive game despite the Sabers having an 11-3 advantage in the first period.
“We didn’t like our first one at all,” Duclair said. “We just talked to each other in the dressing room and we thought we have to be much better.”
Former Sabers Reinhart and Montour were in the starting lineup and received a standing ovation from the crowd after being shown on the video scoreboard during a first-period stoppage. Scratched keeper Jonas Johansson was also recognized in the video.
The Sabers’ leading scorer last season, Reinhart returned to Buffalo for the first time since being traded to the Panthers in July for a first-round pick in 2022. The second pick in the 2014 draft played 454 games in seven seasons with the Sabres.
“It’s good to be back,” Reinhart said before the game. “It feels like a long time ago, especially at this time of year when you’ve played so many games with a new team.”
It was also the first return to Buffalo for Montour, who was traded to the Panthers last April after playing 112 games with the Sabers.
ONE FOR THE AGES
The goalie matchup between Knight, 20, and Anderson, 40, was the biggest age gap in an NHL game since 2007.
Anderson played 48 games with the Panthers from 2007 to 2009. The NHL’s oldest goaltender is one win shy of 300 in his career.
Panthers: Rookie F Anton Lundell went to the locker room in the first period with a lower-body injury and didn’t return after being knocked down by Buffalo’s Mattias Samuelsson. “I think it’s no big deal, but we’ll see,” Brunette said. … F Ryan Lomberg (undisclosed injury) is expected to “come back very soon” after being placed on injured reserve on Sunday, according to Brunette.
Sabres: Forward Alex Tuch remained in the lineup after being listed as a game time decision following his head-first collision with the goal post in the third period of Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Kings from Los Angeles. Tuch said Monday he was in pain after the game, but medical tests showed no structural damage to his neck or any signs of a concussion.
Panthers: At Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Sabers: Host Vegas on Thursday in its first meeting with Jack Eichel since Buffalo traded the former captain to the Golden Knights in December.
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