Buffalo goalie Eric Comrie tries to stop Florida’s Evan Rodrigues on Thursday.

Sabres generate offense again, still lose to Panthers; Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen could return from injury soon

BUFFALO – Remember that recent seven-goal outburst by the Sabres? As suspected, it turned out to be an anomaly.

On Thursday, they reverted back to their regular form, generating plenty of offense but showcasing a stunning lack of finish in their 4-0 loss to the heavyweight Florida Panthers before a crowd of 14,277 fans in KeyBank Center.

Fresh off Tuesday’s 7-0 triumph over the Los Angeles Kings, the Sabres pumped 45 shots on Anthony Stolarz, yet couldn’t get one past the backup goalie.

“Just wasn’t good enough from us,” Sabres winger Alex Tuch said. “Wasn’t good enough in those dirty areas, baring down, and I think a little too many shots from the outside with no traffic made it a little easier on them.”

It marked the 10th time in 28 home contests this season the Sabres have been shut out or scored just one goal. Good grief.

During their disastrous 1-3-0 home stand, they scored just two total goals in their losses despite registering 127 shots. That’s a ghastly 1.6 percent shooting percentage!

Thursday’s setback was closer than the score indicates, as the Sabres, who played without injured No. 1 goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, trailed 2-0 with less than two minutes left.

Still, they can’t take any solace in that. They couldn’t convert several prime chances, including rookie winger Zach Benson’s early attempt into an open net with the game tied at 0.

“I thought we did some things well to generate, but, obviously, not enough,” Sabres coach Don Granato said.

After Carter Verhaeghe scored the first of his two goals 9:26 into the game – Aleksander Barkov created it by stealing the puck from rookie defenseman Ryan Johnson in the corner – the Sabres had to chase another game.

Anton Lundell put the Panthers up 2-0 17:16 into the second period, sealing their 10th straight road win.

“They play really smart,” Tuch said. “They play the right way each and every shift. I thought them getting the first goal was a big difference tonight.”

In the end, Luukkonen’s absence did not make much of a difference, as backup goalie Eric Comrie looked sharp in his first NHL start since Dec. 5, stopping 27 shots.

Luukkonen, who had started four straight games and 10 of the last 11, participated in Thursday’s morning skate and did not appear to be injured. But late in the afternoon, the Sabres announced he was day to day with a lower-body injury and goalie Dustin Tokarski had been recalled from the Rochester Americans.

Granato said “there’s a good chance” the Finn could return for Saturday afternoon’s road game against the Minnesota Wild.

“He skated this morning and was still hopeful that he could go,” he said. “The decision was give him another day of rest. We think it will be much better and completely resolve.”

Luukkonen has been one of the NHL’s hottest goalies, compiling a 7-5-0 record with a 1.60 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in 12 games since Dec. 30.

Granato said he was injured prior to Thursday morning and “could have played.”

“But again, you run a risk with what he’s dealing with, so we made that decision based on those components after the skate was done based on further discussion of how he felt,” he said.

Comrie hadn’t played a game since Jan. 27, when he made the last of his four starts with the Amerks. He said he learned at the end of the morning skate he would be playing.

“I felt pretty good right from the get-go,” Comrie said. “I felt good the whole day and I just kept doing what I felt I was doing when I was doing when I was in Roch, when I sent down there and I try to keep building those habits.”

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