A lineup shuffle couldn’t solve the Panthers’ road woes.
Coach Gerard Gallant made changes to three lines and one defensive pairing for Saturday’s matinee in Buffalo. It resulted in the worst loss of the season.
Sabres backup goaltender Anders Nilsson handed the Panthers their first shutout, 3-0, and their most-lopsided defeat. The Panthers have lost five of six and are now 3-4-1 overall.
After winning a franchise-record 22 road games last season, the Panthers are 0-3-1 away from home heading into Sunday’s game at Detroit.
“We didn’t work hard enough and didn’t compete,” Gallant said. “It’s the first game I’m really disappointed. I thought we played well all season long. [On Saturday], we didn’t play well enough. We weren’t even close to winning that hockey game.”
Gallant inserted Shawn Thornton and Steven Kampfer into the lineup for the first time this season. Thornton joined the fourth line and Kampfer took Michael Matheson’s spot next to Jason Demers on the blue line. Colton Sceviour moved up from the third line to the second and Shane Harper moved up to the third line to replace Kyle Rau.
After the game, Gallant said of the changes, “we didn’t get a whole lot out of it tonight.”
Thronton had two of the Panthers’ nine giveaways, including one that led to Buffalo’s first-period goal by Johan Larsson.
“First 20 minutes, I was rusty, 100 percent,” Thornton said. “Not conditioning-wise or anything like that, just the pace of play, not seeing game action in a while. Felt better as the game went on.”
Kampfer was also on the ice for the Sabres’ first goal, and he took two penalties, a tripping and delay of game.
“His first game of the year, he was no worse than two or three of them back there,” Gallant said.
The Sabres scored both of their other goals on the power play. The Panthers had gone 7 for 8 on the penalty kill in their previous three road games and had allowed only two power-play goals in 15 chances through seven games.
Meanwhile, the Panthers’ power play, which had scored in four consecutive games, went 0 for 4.
“Ultimately, it comes down to we weren’t able to find one on the power play and get that jump or spark that we needed,” said defenseman Keith Yandle, who played 4:40 of the 7:31 power-play minutes and led the Panthers with seven shots on goal.
Roberto Luongo made 22 saves as the Panthers outshot their opponent (33-25) for the sixth time in eight games. But they had few good scoring chances. The best one came with 57 seconds left in the game when Vincent Trocheck earned a penalty shot. He missed high.
“We never had any great, Grade-A scoring chances, quality chances,” Gallant said. “We got a lot from the outside, we got a lot from the point. I just didn’t think we battled, and we were big enough going to the net tonight.”
Buffalo scored two of its goals from just outside the crease, including Sam Reinhart’s third-period tally that put the game out of reach. Reinhart’s pass from behind the net bounced in off the skate of defenseman Mark Pysyk, a former Sabre.
Dmitry Kulikov, the defenseman the Panthers traded for Pysyk in June, had one hit and a blocked shot in 21:56 of ice time. He also took a penalty for goaltender interference.
Sunday: Panthers at Red Wings
When/where: 5 p.m.; Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560; WMEN 640.
Series: Detroit leads 19-13-5.
Scouting report: The Panthers have taken the season series over the Red Wings the past three years and won the first meeting this season 4-1 on Oct. 15. Florida has been exceptionally good at “The Joe,” with victories in five of the past six visits. Florida’s final regular-season visit to the venerable venue comes Dec. 1. The Wings are moving to the new downtown Little Caesars Arena next season.