SUNRISE, Fla. – Marco Scandella hit the boards hard. That was essentially the end of his night.
Buffalo lost its top-pair defenseman and the game Friday. Scandella missed the second and third periods with a lower-body injury, and the Florida Panthers skated to a 4-1 win BB&T Center.
With five minutes to go in the first, Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad tossed Scandella into the back boards. Scandella took a five-second shift after that but didn't skate again.
"Marco will be OK," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "Lower-body bumps and bruises, so we just held him out."
The defenseman sat on the Sabres' bench for the opening half of the second period, but he retreated to the dressing room and didn't come back.
Playoff push: The Panthers are making a hard run at the playoffs. They won their fifth straight, improving to 8-2 in the last 10 games and 12-3 in the last 15.
Florida pulled within one point of Columbus for the final wild-card spot heading into the Blue Jackets' late game in Anaheim. The Panthers have played three fewer games.
Quick goal: The Panthers needed just 1:25 to take a 1-0 lead. They won a draw in the Sabres' zone, getting the puck to defenseman Mike Matheson at the blue line. He stepped around Kyle Okposo for a clean look at the net, and he easily beat goaltender Robin Lehner to the stick side.
Tie it up: Sam Reinhart continued his extended run on the score sheet, making it 1-1 with 5:34 off the clock. Sabres defenseman Victor Antipin plunked Florida forward Aleksander Barkov with a hard shot, and Ryan O'Reilly scooped up the loose puck. He quickly moved it to Reinhart before the Panthers could react.
The goal was the 15th of the season for Reinhart, who has eight goals and 21 points in the last 21 games.
Familiar result: Once again, the Panthers won a faceoff in the Sabres' zone. Four seconds later, it was 2-1. The puck moved to defenseman Keith Yandle, who took a few strides up the left boards. Benoit Pouliot failed to pick up defenseman Aaron Ekblad on the right side, and Ekblad buried the cross-ice pass with 3:19 left in the opening period.
Speed thrills: Barkov accepted a pass near center ice, got defenseman Justin Falk leaning the wrong way and split Falk and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. Barkov then lifted a close-range backhand over Lehner's shoulder, putting the Sabres in a 3-1 hole with 6:49 gone in the second.
Rebound: Florida made it 4-1 on another rush. Lehner stopped a spinning backhand by Bjugstad, but the rebound off his pad went to a driving Colton Sceviour. The forward pounded it home with 8:44 to go in the second.
Sort of even: The shots were 20-20 after 40 minutes, but the Sabres went to intermission in a 4-1 hole.
Rematch: The Sabres' Jordan Nolan and Florida's Micheal Haley dropped the gloves with 3:23 to go in the first. Nolan earned a win over Haley when they battled in November, but Haley scored a takedown Friday.
It was Haley's 18th fight of the season. The Sabres moved to 11 as a team when Beaulieu fought with 21.4 seconds to play.
Line changes: Center Evan Rodrigues missed the game with an upper-body injury, so coach Phil Housley changed his top three lines. Ryan O'Reilly centered for left wing Benoit Pouliot and right wing Sam Reinhart. Zemgus Girgensons was in the middle of Nick Baptiste and Kyle Okposo. Johan Larsson was between Scott Wilson and Jason Pominville.
The fourth line of Jacob Josefson centering for Jordan Nolan and Seth Griffith remained intact.
Break time: Sabres Hall of Fame announcer Rick Jeanneret, who called the game, is staying in Florida with family for a couple of weeks.
Next: The Sabres play their first game of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs at home Monday. The archrivals meet four times in four weeks.
Story topics: Marco Scandella