Florida Panthers

Panthers get point in overtime loss to Buffalo Sabres

Panthers goalie Al Montoya can’t stop this game-winning blast by Nikita Zadorov in overtime.
Panthers goalie Al Montoya can’t stop this game-winning blast by Nikita Zadorov in overtime. AP

The Panthers will most definitely take any point in the standings they can get.

That doesn’t mean they have to like it.

Players and coaches were disappointed in Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the host Sabres after Buffalo tied the score midway through the third period.

Buffalo won the game and took the second point when Nikita Zadorov scored 29 seconds into overtime.

“It wasn’t good enough,” said coach Gerard Gallant, whose team topped host Detroit in a shootout the night before. Florida took three of four available points in this Atlantic Division back-to-back set.

“We’re happy with the point, but we didn’t deserve more than that. Buffalo was the better team.”

Florida fell behind 2-0 in the opening period after a lifeless start, but two goals on the first two shots of the second period from Sean Bergenheim and Jimmy Hayes tied it up.

The Panthers then scored on their first shot of the third period (Jussi Jokinen) to grab their first and only lead of the night.

But Buffalo, which had lost five in a row to Florida, controlled the rest of the game.

“We got off to another bad start — we were down 2-0 in St. Louis — and we can’t let that happen,” said Bergenheim, who put the Panthers on the board with a shot that hit the skates of Zadorov and bounced past Jhonas Enroth 1:08 into the second.

“We did a good job coming back again. You have to look at the positives. But we weren’t good enough to get the two points.”

Goalie Al Montoya didn’t get much help early on as the Panthers looked slow and disinterested. Buffalo’s second tally, which came from Marcus Foligno, came on the Sabres’ ninth shot on goal of the period. Florida had mustered only three at that point.

Montoya and the Panthers steadied things, but Buffalo — which has won seven of its past eight games at First Niagara Center — tied the score on a breakaway goal by Brian Gionta.

In overtime, the Panthers turned the puck over and Zadorov cashed in for his first NHL goal.

The Panthers dropped to 3-8 in overtime.

“It seems like the common ground lately is we wait and see and dig ourselves a hole in the first period,” said Montoya, who made 28 saves.

“Once we figure that out and stop doing that to ourselves, [that] will put us in a better place. The ones that figure it out are in the playoffs at the end of the year.”

O’BRIEN GRATEFUL

Shane O’Brien knows his latest NHL stint might not last long, so he said he’s savoring every moment.

O’Brien has played in 528 NHL games, but his previous one came last January with Calgary. O’Brien had a falling out with Flames coach Bob Hartley and ended up in the minors.

After a good training camp with Florida, the Panthers offered him a two-way contract and sent him to their minor-league team in San Antonio. On Thursday, the Panthers called him up for their back-to-back set against Detroit and Buffalo.

Although O’Brien might be back in San Antonio as early as this week, he said he won’t take playing in the NHL for granted again.

“Any time you can be in the NHL is great,” said O’Brien, who didn’t play on Friday or Saturday.

“Just going out for morning skate [Friday] brought back a lot of memories. You know how special this is. I may have taken it for granted earlier in my career, but going back to the minors gives you a taste of reality of how lucky you are to play in the NHL.”

▪ Former Panthers center Stephen Weiss’ shoulder injury doesn’t appear to be serious, although he missed Detroit’s game in Toronto on Saturday. Weiss was injured in the second period of Florida’s 3-2 shootout victory on Friday after going into the boards after a hit from Bergenheim.

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