When the Panthers jumped out to an early two-goal lead Friday night, the Sabres may as well have packed up and headed off to their next stop.
With Roberto Luongo in net, the Sabres never really had a chance.
Luongo did what he usually does in Buffalo as he slammed the door shut on the Sabres and led Florida to a 2-0 victory at First Niagara Center.
Luongo has two shutouts this season — both in Buffalo. Luongo has also pitched a shutout in each of his past three trips here and has won six of seven against the Sabres, including the past five.
The Sabres haven’t scored on Luongo in Buffalo since Jason Pominville did so during Luongo’s original stint with Florida on Feb.11, 2006.
“When do we come back?’’ Luongo asked after making 30 saves for his 68th career shutout (13th all-time).
“I enjoy playing in this building and am having success. I don’t know if you get in another team’s head or not, but for me, I’m just trying to do my job and take the wins.’’
Florida has enjoyed its games against the Sabres lately as Friday’s win was its sixth in seven games dating to last year.
The Panthers have won their past seven games following a regulation loss. Florida lost to the visiting New York Rangers 5-2 on Wednesday.
“I heard the guys talking about it that they wanted to get right back at it,’’ said coach Gerard Gallant, whose Panthers are 3-0-1 against Buffalo this year.
“I think they wanted to win. They played the right way.’’
Florida jumped all over goalie Michal Neuvierth and the slumping Sabres (losers of seven of their past eight) by taking a 2-0 lead midway through the opening period.
Brad Boyes opened the scoring, slamming home a nice feed from Aleksander Barkov.
With 8:09 left in the first, Nick Bjugstad got his team-leading 14th of the season, following up a rebound from Jimmy Hayes on a power play.
“I jumped on it,’’ Bjugstad said. “It was right in front of me, and I had a wide-open net.’’
After that, the Panthers didn’t do a whole lot. Didn’t really need to, either.
Although Buffalo didn’t muster much offense in the opening period — “I was tweeting,’’ Luongo said — it didn’t lull the Florida goalie to sleep as he was sharp when needed in the second and third.
Buffalo outshot the Panthers 23-14 in the final 40 minutes after Florida held a 19-7 advantage in the first.
“We shut them down and didn’t give them goals, stayed out of the penalty box,’’ Boyes said. “We won, whether we win by playing well or by being outplayed, we need points.’’
Said Luongo: “We were a little upset about the last game, so we came out strong.’’
DEBUT FOR O’BRIEN
Defenseman Shane O’Brien finally made his debut with the Panthers on Friday after being recalled from the minors that afternoon.
Erik Gudbranson apparently banged his shoulder when he fell during the morning skate and couldn’t go against the Sabres.
O’Brien was in Toronto with Florida’s AHL team and made the short drive to Buffalo for the game.
General manager Dale Tallon said he didn’t think Gudbranson’s injury was anything serious. O’Brien is expected to stay with the team at least through Sunday’s game at Washington.
“Obviously, I’ve been keeping my eye on the boys, and they’ve been playing great,’’ said O’Brien, who played in his 529th NHL game on Friday but first since last January with Calgary.
“Typical game for these guys, they played good stingy defense. I’m glad I could help the boys get two points.’’
▪ Tomas Kopecky missed his third consecutive game (upper body) but did go through the full morning skate Friday and also did conditioning work.
Tomas Fleischmann (lower-body injury) was out of the lineup after pulling something during the morning skate. Fleischmann left the ice about midway through the practice and didn’t return.