Huberdeau, Jagr help Panthers win 10th straight
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Jonathan Huberdeau set up Florida's first goal and then put an exclamation point on the Panthers' franchise-record 10th straight win with a fantastic breakaway goal.
Jaromir Jagr scored his team-leading 14th goal, and Derek Mackenzie, Brandon Pirri and Corban Knight also scored as Florida beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 Tuesday night.
Roberto Luongo made 31 saves to improve his career record against Buffalo to 18-7.
Sprung behind the defense by Aleksander Barkov's cutting pass, Hubeardeau's initial deke moved Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark well out of position before tucking the puck into the open net with 3:54 to go. The stretched Florida's lead to 4-1.
''We're just having fun right now,'' Huberdeau said. ''I ran a breakaway, tried a move and it worked.''
Pirri added an empty-net goal with 1:21 remaining to round out the scoring.
The Panthers opened the scoring when Huberdeau skated the puck across the Sabres' zone before sliding it across to Jagr. The 43-year-old fired a shot past Ullmark to make it 1-0.
''You could say it's hard to believe at 43 he's playing that great but knowing him it's not hard to believe,'' Huberdeau said of Jagr . ''His work ethic is incredible. We're just lucky to have him around us.''
The Atlantic Division-leading Panthers aren't thinking about losing anytime soon.
''We're trying not to think too much about the streak,'' Huberdeau said. ''Ten, might as well just keep going and win every game.''
Ryan O'Reilly scored for the Sabres, who have lost five straight games in regulation and fell to 0-4-1 in their last five home games.
And the losses are weighing on Buffalo, which is again in the race for a lottery pick despite a major roster overhaul.
''I don't think our pushback was there in the third period where it needed to be,'' Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. ''They got the third goal, and I thought we really sagged after that.''
Jack Eichel caused a turnover early in the first, only to see Luongo stop both his initial shot and rebound attempt.
Buffalo tied the score 1-1 on a three-way passing play early in the second period. Jamie McGinn carried the puck down the left wall, sliding it to Eichel. Parked to the right of Luongo, Eichel fired a no-look backhand pass to the backdoor, where O'Reilly fired a hard shot past Luongo.
Another power-play chance for the Sabres yielded a short-handed breakaway for Aleksander Barkov, but Ullmark kept his position to deny the Panthers' center.
MacKenzie put the Panthers ahead for good at the 8:54 mark of the second, when he raced up the right side of the ice and, given time to size up Ullmark, wristed a shot over the goalie's glove.
MacKenzie says he was only going to shoot.
''I don't know if I have a backhand sauce in my bag of tricks so I was just getting it on net,'' he said.
The Sabres had an advantage in shots on goal for the majority of the game, but Luongo's goaltending combined with an opportunistic Panthers attack to control the play.
That's how Florida took a 3-1 lead early in the third, when Knight was the beneficiary of a puck that bounced oddly into the slot.
Sam Reinhart did force Luongo into a pair of tricky saves to bookend the Panthers' third goal.
''Luongo's been doing that all year,'' Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. ''I've been here with the team for a year and a half now and there's never an issue with (Luongo) going in the net.''
Jagr had a chance on a 2-on-1 with Barkov with just over 5 minutes to play, but Ullmark's save came with a penalty to Jake McCabe that sent Buffalo onto the penalty kill.
NOTES: Buffalo scratched defenseman Mike Weber in favor of Carlo Colaicovo, who had not played since Dec. 7. ... The Sabres start a three-game road swing on Friday at Chicago. ... Florida next visits Ottawa on Thursday.