In a battle of Eastern Conference teams vying for one of the final playoff spots, the Buffalo Sabres' 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers last night made the battle for the eighth spot even tighter. The Sabres now sit three points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers, who's 4-2 win over Nashville bumped the Panthers out of one of the top eight seeds.
Despite the loss and the missed scoring opportunities for Florida, including a vital 5-on-3 power-play in the third period that they couldn't cash in on, goaltender Tomas Vokoun did his best to keep the Panthers in this game. That included this highway robbery of Thomas Vanek in the second period, which would have given the Sabres a two goal cushion:
Vokoun came oh so close to having his momentum push his glove hand over the goal line. Luckily for him, the post seemed to help slow the momentum and be able to bring it away from the goal line. Vanek would later get his revenge in the third period, scoring on the power play to extend Buffalo's lead to 3-1.
The win, a vital one for Buffalo, kept them alive in the playoff race, whereas a loss to a Florida team also battle for one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference would have been a shot to any playoff hopes as defenseman Toni Lydman told the Buffalo News:
"That's why this was huge because they're right there for us, two points ahead after this game," Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman said. "They're right in our sights. We just have to put some wins together and keep climbing. We can't go win one, lose one again. I believe if we battle like we did today and play "D' as desperately as tonight, I think we'll get those wins."
The top three places in the Eastern Conference are pretty much safe at this point, but who do you think is going to round out the bottom seeds heading into the playoffs?
H/T to DayWalk3r for sending this one in