When the Florida Panthers rolled into Buffalo, they had the 29th ranked power play in the league, had gone two full games without scoring a goal and were essentially out of contention for a playoff position.
But a desperate team with nothing to lose is just as dangerous as one racing for a postseason berth, as Lindy Ruff will always attest to.
The Panthers must have felt even more desperate when Buffalo scored only 1:23 into the game. After multiple Sabres crashed the net following a shot on Tomas Vokoun, who subsequently tumbled into the net, Jason Pominville finally pounded it through for his 19th goal of the year.
Turnovers would be a problem for Buffalo throughout the contest, the worst of which coming less than three minutes after their initial goal. The Sabres coughed up the puck in their own zone after trying to carry it out, and Sergei Samsonov picked it up. The Florida left-winger fired a backhand past Ryan Miller to finally end his team’s scoring drought after going over six periods without a goal.
Towards the end of the first period, Florida’s David Booth took a puck to the face off a Buffalo shot. Booth first went to the bench simply to sit down, but eventually was examined by the team trainer and then a Sabres doctor. He would not return for the rest of the game.
Buffalo got things rolling again early in the second period. A pass from the right side of the net by Brad Boyes was shoveled in by Drew Stafford as he parked himself in front of Vokoun, allowing Buffalo to reclaim its lead less than three minutes into the period.
Another injury occurred when Paul Gaustad was elbowed in the head by Stephen Weiss. Weiss only received a two-minute penalty, while Gaustad had to leave the ice to visit the team doctor. Buffalo could not capitalize on the man-advantage, but Gaustad would later return for the final period after passing a concussion test. The Goose took the opening face-off of the third against Weiss, ironically enough.
Buffalo went up 3-1 on the Power Play midway through the period. Effective passing led to Pominville being left all alone with the puck near the blue line. His slapshot was deflected by Jordan Leopold, and the puck flew just underneath Tomas Vokoun.
Only 13 seconds later, the Sabres added to their lead. After fighting for the puck, Tyler Ennis launched a shot from the boards, which Stafford picked up and threw into the net behind him.
Florida scored their second goal of the night on a wild shot by Evgeni Dadonov which Miller couldn’t even see. But the goal came with a mere three seconds left in the game, and after a face-off at center ice, the horn sounded to give Buffalo a much needed two points.
The Carolina Hurricanes also won their match-up on the night over the Tampa Bay Lightning, making the Sabres victory even more significant. With the win, Buffalo kept themselves three points ahead in the standings. The win also puts Buffalo only two points behind the New York Rangers, who they will face Wednesday night inside HSBC Arena.