SUNRISE, Fla. -- Little drama for 55 minutes, a lot of drama for five. That's the story of the Buffalo Sabres' season finale, a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers Saturday night in BB&T Center.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad all scored in the first 14 minutes and the Panthers held on in sweeping the season series and leaving the Sabres with a four-game losing streak to end the season.
The final numbers: The loss left the Sabres with a final record of 25-45-12 for 62 points, a drop of 16 points from last season. Buffalo went 11-25-5 at home and 14-20-7 on the road. The 62 points are the fourth-lowest in franchise history for a full season. The Sabres had 51 points in 1971-72 and totals of 52 and 54 points, respectively, in their tank seasons from 2013-2015.
Panther power: Florida improved to 24-8-2 in its last 34 games under first-year coach and former Sabres defenseman Bob Boughner. The Panthers have 94 points heading into Sunday's season finale in Boston. They were eliminated from the final wild-card slot about an hour before faceoff when Philadelphia closed out its 5-0 win over the New York Rangers.
In the circle: Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly won 19 faceoffs in the game to break the all-time NHL record of 1,268 set by Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour in 2005-06. O'Reilly finished with 1,274.
On the scoresheet: The Sabres broke James Reimer's shutout bid on Jason Pominville's goal with 4:30 to play. Sam Reinhart then scored 21 seconds later to cut the deficit to one. Reinhart collected his 25th goal and 50th point of the season.
Tremendous third: The Sabres outshot Florida, 21-4, in the third period and 41-27 for the game but couldn't get the equalizer. Vincent Trocheck's empty-net goal with 1:23 left sealed the outcome. It was the 22nd empty netter against Buffalo this season. It turned out to be the winner as O'Reilly scored his 24th of the season with 15.8 seconds left. Buffalo ended the campaign with 198 goals. The Sabres haven't broken 200 (not counting shootout winners) since the 2011-12 campaign.
Hanging Chad: Coach Phil Housley lifted goalie Chad Johnson after one period, as the Buffalo gave up three goals on 12 shots. In four April starts, Johnson had a 5.15 goals-against average and .848 save percentage. He ended the season 10-17-3 with a 3.55 GAA and .882 save percentage.
Nifty Fifty: Adam Wilcox replaced Johnson starting the second period to make his NHL debut. He became the 50th goaltender to appear in a Sabres uniform in franchise history, the fourth to play this year in addition to Johnson, Robin Lehner and Linus Ullmark. Wilcox stopped all 14 shots he faced, including 11 in the second period.
"I was pretty nervous. My heart went pretty much through my body right there," Wilcox said. "First game in the NHL but it was a cool feeling. It was pretty surreal experience. You dream about this day your whole life and then the pucks drops and you try to block out everything around you and focus on the puck and game."
Congratulations Coxi to your first NHL game! Very well deserved brother! 🤜💥🤛 pic.twitter.com/213MiLg7iP
— Linus Ullmark (@Icebeardude) April 8, 2018
On the other side: Veteran forward Radim Vrbata played his final home game for the Panthers, getting inserted into the lineup after sitting out the last 15 as a healthy scratch when Florida was eliminated. Vrbata, who was in the starting lineup, was honored with a standing ovation during a first-period timeout.
On the other side II: With Florida eliminated, starting goaltender Roberto Luongo did not make the start and Reimer took his place. The Panthers were without star forward Aleksander Barkov, who suffered a shoulder injury Thursday night against Boston.
Up Next: Mercifully, it's the offseason. And time for General Manager Jason Botterill to start taking a sledgehammer to this roster. The players will clean out their lockers Monday in KeyBank Center. Botterill and coach Phil Housley will also meet the media this week.