SUNRISE, Fla. -- Thoughts of the playoffs were toast a while ago but the Buffalo Sabres still have something dubious to play for in Sunday's season finale: Staying out of last place in the Atlantic Division.
The Sabres suffered a 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers Saturday night in BB&T Center and could drop to the division basement by virtue of their game Sunday at Tampa Bay and results elsewhere.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored two goals and James Reimer made 30 saves to lead the Panthers as they snapped a six-game losing streak and pulled ahead of Buffalo in points, 79-78. The last-place Detroit Red Wings have 77 after their overtime loss to Montreal, and host New Jersey Sunday in the final game at Joe Louis Arena. The Sabres finished seventh in the division and 14th in the Eastern Conference last season. They could end this season eighth and 15th, respectively.
A no-hitter: The scoreless first period was essentially a preseason pillow fight, with each team credited with just two hits and what little action took place virtually devoid of physical contact.
The first goal: The Panthers broke the ice at 7:45 of the second period as Nick Bjugstad curled around Zach Bogosian and slid the puck through Robin Lehner from the left circle.
Huby Duby Doo: Huberdeau made it 2-0 at 17:03 of the second with an acrobatic goal while he was falling into the net. After the puck leaked through Lehner, Huberdeau was in the crease behind the Buffalo goalie and pulled it into the net on the backhand. He actually kicked it out, as it hit his skate while he was falling, but the play was ruled a goal on review because the puck had crossed the goal line.
Dueces wild: At the end of the second period, the shots on goal were 22-22 -- and seven Buffalo players tied for team-high honors with two apiece.
Huby Duby Doo II: Huberdeau put the Sabres into a three-goal hole at 5:55 of the third with a fluke goal to the right of Lehner as his backhand from the goal line deflected off Rasmus Ristolainen's left skate and skittered past Lehner.
Vs. Panthers/Vs. Atlantic: The Sabres went 2-1-1 against Florida this season but failed in their effort to beat the Panthers in consecutive games for the first time since 2011. They fell to 9-3-1 in their last 13 games against the Atlantic Division after going 4-9-3 in their first 16.
Florida Farewell: It was the final NHL game for Panthers tough guy Shawn Thornton. The 39-year-old played his 700th career game last week in Buffalo and will be retiring after the season to join the Panthers' front office. He is not playing in the season finale Sunday in Washington. Thornton, who was in the starting lineup, won Stanley Cups in 2007 with Anaheim and 2011 with Boston. He is the only player in the expansion era to play both 600 AHL games and 700 NHL games. He has 42 goals, 60 assists and 1,103 penalty minutes in his NHL career.
Thornton earned a standing ovation from the crowd during a third-period video tribute. Sabres players stood on the bench tapping their sticks and the officials also applauded Thornton.
Up next for Sabres: The season ends Sunday at 5 in Amalie Arena against the Lightning.