Jaromir Jagr makes debut in Panthers’ win over Sabres
Jaromir Jagr added some spark to the Florida Panthers offense, even though he didn’t get on the score sheet.
Jagr made his Panthers debut, and Scottie Upshall scored the go-ahead goal with 5:58 left in the Panthers’ 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
Acquired from New Jersey on Thursday for two draft picks, the 43-year-old Jagr recorded three shots in a little over 17 minutes of ice time to help the Panthers outshoot the Sabres 47-14.
The Panthers had their highest scoring output in 10 games since they notched six goals against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 10.
"I wish I could score, but it doesn’t matter, we won," Jagr said. "When you come to a new team, you just want the first game to be a victory, and I’m happy about that."
Brandon Pirri scored twice for the Panthers. Nick Bjugstad also scored, and Derek MacKenzie added an empty-net goal with 17 seconds left. Roberto Luongo stopped 11 shots.
Jagr was on the ice for both of Pirri’s power-play goals, and that was no coincidence, according to Panthers coach Gerard Gallant.
"(On the) power play, he’s a special player and he gives them more ice because people are covering him," Gallant said. "He makes people around him better. Today was a great example of our team playing better because he was there."
Brad Boyes and Jussi Jokinen both had three assists, and Brian Campbell added two.
The Panthers, who snapped a four-game losing streak, are 4-0-1 against the Sabres this season.
Torrey Mitchell, Andrej Meszaros and Cody Hodgson scored for Buffalo. Michal Neuvirth made 42 saves. The Sabres lost for the first time in three games.
The Panthers got stronger as the game went on, and took 36 shots in the second and third periods.
"They were all over us," Neuvirth said. "They put so many pucks on net. It was a shooting gallery in the second."
Mitchell tied it at 3 for Buffalo when he poked the puck between Luongo’s pads with 7:06 left. The Panthers answered on Upshall’s slap shot from the right circle.
Bjugstad broke a 2-2 tie with 1:29 left in the second. Bjugstad got the puck in front of the crease and poked it in. He leads the team with 22 goals.
The Panthers rallied from a 2-0 deficit on Pirri’s power-play goals in a 1:23 span in the second. On the first goal, Campbell passed to Pirri in the slot. His shot went over Neuvirth’s shoulder and into the net at 12:01.
Pirri then tied it with a one-timer from the right circle that got past Neuvirth. Pirri played for the first time since missing nine games due to an upper-body injury.
The Panthers have struggled on the power play and were 2-for-28 coming into the game. They hope that Jagr will provide a boost to the unit.
"That’s why I had so much room, they’ve got to respect (Jagr)," Pirri said. "For me, it opened up a lane with him moving around in the middle.
"Campbell put it right in my wheelhouse."
The Sabres scored two goals on their first three shots. Hodgson opened the scoring with a shot from the top of the left circle that got past Luongo on the stick side 2:57 in. Meszaros took a soft shot from above the left circle that went between Luongo’s pads at 7:18.
After that, the Sabres offense seemed stuck until Mitchell’s goal gave them brief hope.
"Our discipline just wasn’t there," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "This is our eighth game in 14 nights, and they’re a big club. We just kind of ran out of gas."
NOTES: Sabres F Tyler Ennis missed his second game with a lower-body injury. … Campbell played in his 900th NHL game. … Panthers F Garrett Wilson was sent to San Antonio of the AHL. … Florida traded veteran forward Tomas Fleischmann to Anaheim for F Dany Heatley and a third-round draft pick.