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Reinhart gets his 55th goal in OT as Panthers top Buffalo, clinch home ice for Round 1

By TIM REYNOLDS (AP Sports Writer)

SUNRISE — All Florida needed was one point to ensure its postseason run would start at home. And once that task was done, Sam Reinhart decided to put an exclamation point on things.

Reinhart got his 55th goal of the season with 1:02 left in overtime, and the Panthers clinched home ice for at least Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs by beating the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in the next-to-last regular-season game for both teams on Saturday.

“We’re excited about the challenge ahead,” Reinhart said. “It’s starting for real pretty soon. Do what you can to get home-ice advantage. That’s the beauty of playoffs; at the end of the day, it’s a battle, it’s a war, Game 1. And we’re looking forward to that.”

Reinhart took a pass from Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov and delivered the winner. Anton Lundell and Kevin Stenlund also scored for Florida, and Matthew Tkachuk had an assist — his 60th of the season, the third straight year he’s had that many.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots for Florida, getting the win in his 700th career game. He’s the 32nd goalie in league history to hit that milestone, and one of three still active.

“An incredible accomplishment,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

Tyson Jost and Jack Quinn scored for Buffalo, which got 39 saves from Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The Sabres got a point off Florida for only the second time in the teams’ last 11 meetings; they’re 1-9-1 in that span.

Florida had a 5-minute power play in the third after Buffalo defenseman Connor Clifton was given a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of Panthers’ center Nick Cousins. But the Panthers got nothing past Luukkonen, who stopped seven shots to preserve what was a 2-2 tie.

The Sabres came through with another penalty kill with the game on the line. Buffalo’s Alex Tuch took a high-sticking penalty with 34.9 seconds left in regulation. Florida didn’t get a shot on goal before the third period expired, then had a 4-on-3 advantage to begin overtime as the power play continued — and the Sabres thwarted them again.

“The penalty kill was very good and looked very confident,” Sabres coach Don Granato said.

The teams combined to score four goals — two for Florida, two for Buffalo — in a 6:49 span of the first period, all on seven combined shots. It was 2-2 by the midpoint of that opening period, making it seem like a wild one was brewing.

But there was no more scoring until the end.

Jost was credited with his first goal since Dec. 2 when he deflected a shot by Rasmus Dahlin past Bobrovsky at 2:59 of the first, ending Florida’s bid for a third straight shutout. Lundell tied it for Florida at 5:02, with Tkachuk getting one of the assists on that goal.

Stenlund scored short-handed about three minutes later, before Quinn knotted things up on the power play.


Sabres: Visit Tampa Bay on Monday night in their season finale.

Panthers: Host Toronto on Tuesday night in their regular-season finale.


AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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