By Dave Ricci
Buffalo – That’s what the people paid to see.
Sam Reinhart had two points (goal/assist) as the Buffalo Sabres blanked the Florida Panthers, 3-0, at the KeyBank Center Saturday afternoon.
Just the second win of the season, it was the Sabres first win on home ice.
More importantly, after letting a win on the road at Philadelphia slip away followed by a flat effort at home against Minnesota on Thursday, this was more of the complete game the Sabres feel they are capable of having.
“To see us bounce back and have that performance tonight was huge for us,” said Sam Reinhart, whose power play goal in the third made it 3-0.
Roberto Luongo, who historically has the Sabres number, on this day had no answers to stop the Blue and Gold.
Johan Larsson opened the scoring with an even strength goal at the 7:47 mark of the first period.
Kyle Okposo extended the lead to 2-0 in the second period with a power play goal that was set up by Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen.
It was also a milestone goal of sorts for Okposo who’s first goal at home as a Sabre was also his first-ever goal at the KeyBank Center. The only Eastern Conference rink he hadn’t scored in yet.
“Yeah the last rink in the East I haven’t scored in,” Okposo said.
Lost in the excitement of the win and Andres Nilsson’s 33 save shutout was the strong defensive game by Sabre blue liner Rasmus Ristolainen.
Clearly the best player on the ice? Ristolainen played 24:02 and was a big reason why the Panthers were kept off the score sheet.
“He plays real heavy. He play really hard,” Okposo said.
“I really liked what I saw from him today and he’s been really great for us all year.”
Ristolainen’s seven assists leads the team and his six points on the power play is tied with Phil Kessel and Claude Giroux for most in the NHL
The game was also the return of former Sabre defense man Mark Pysk since being traded to Florida for Dmitry Kulikov.
Pysyk skated 22 shifts for a total of 18:56 minutes of ice time.
The Sabres will hit the road for games in Winnipeg on Sunday night and in Minnesota on Tuesday.