Skinner scores twice as Sabres edge Panthers

Offseason trade acquisition Jeff Skinner scored two goals, leading the host Buffalo Sabres to a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

Skinner’s 28 goals rank second in the NHL behind the 29 of the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin. Skinner has already overshadowed his performance last season, when he had 24 goals in 82 games with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Sabres, who also got goals from Tage Thompson and Sam Reinhart, snapped a three-game losing streak (0-2-1).

Sabres backup goalie Linus Ullmark made 35 saves to improve his season record to 9-1-3. Reinhart, besides his ninth goal of the season, also had an assist. Thompson’s goal was his fifth of the season.

Frank Vatrano, Mike Hoffman and Aleksander Barkov scored for Florida, goals No. 11, 19 and 16, respectively. Goalie Roberto Luongo made 29 saves for the Panthers.

Despite the loss, the Panthers have played well on the road lately, going 4-2-0 in their past six games away from home.

Buffalo scored the first goal of the night, marking the fifth straight game Florida has fallen behind in the first period.

On this occasion, Skinner scored with 4:42 elapsed, stealing the puck from two Panthers, stickhandling past a third and then wiring a shot, while falling, past Luongo.

Buffalo made it 2-0 with 7:15 gone in the first. Vladimir Sobotka’s pass freed Thompson, who scored on a wrist shot from the right circle.

Florida got on the board with 13:42 expired in the second period. The Sabres complained about possible interference on the start of the play, but it wasn’t called, and a pass from Colton Sceviour to Vatrano got a two-on-one rush started.

From there, Vatrano had rookie teammate Jayce Hawryluk to his right but instead shot high, beating Ullmark to his stick side.

Reinhart scored on the first shot of the third period, getting a deflection on Lawrence Pilut’s attempt from the left point.

Florida closed its deficit to 3-2 on Hoffman’s power-play goal with 7:45 left in the third. Barkov batted the puck over to Hoffman after a scramble in front of the crease.

Skinner’s second goal of the night, which also came following his steal, gave Buffalo a 4-2 lead with 3:46 left.

With Luongo pulled, Barkov’s goal cut Florida’s deficit to 4-3 with 1:29 to go, but the Panthers could not get the equalizer.

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