It didn’t take Buffalo long to stake a claim on the lead, opening the scoring at the 1:15 mark when Tyler Ennis (11) beat Jose Theodore between the pads on a feed from Drew Stafford. Marcus Foligno was awarded the secondary assist on the play.
Kris Versteeg didn’t wait to make his mark on his first game back since missing his last nine due to injury, dropping the gloves to square off with Christian Ehrhoff in the Florida zone. Both were assessed five-minutes for fighting at the three minute mark.
Tomas Fleischmann was assessed a two minute minor at the 9:59 mark after losing an edge and accidentally dropping Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller. Fleischmann went to the dressing room and Wojtek Wolski served his time in the box.
Just 30 seconds into a lazy Buffalo power play, Christian Ehrhoff returned to the box for tripping John Madden. The teams would skate four on four as neither team gained a clear advantage before Florida enjoyed a short power play.
Buffalo had the Panthers hemmed in their own zone, peppering Theodore with three shots inside 10 seconds at the five minute mark.
Soon after, Florida would enjoy their first full two minute power play of the night as Alexander Sulzer broke Wolski’s stick with a slash. On the ensuing action, Florida kept the puck in the offensive zone for most of the time, setting up a perfect shot as Mikael Samuelsson (11) beat Miller on a wrister. Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss earned the helpers on the play.
Two minutes later, John Madden (2) scored his second goal in as many nights after not getting on the scoresheet for nearly a full year, sliding an easy shot between Miller’s pads for a Panther’s 2-1 lead. Ed Jovanovski and Erik Gudbranson earned assists on the goal.
John Madden and Jerred Smithson nearly doubled the Panther’s lead at the two minute mark on a two-on-one breakout, but Miller turned it aside.
Shawn Matthias and Mike Weber got into a fight after Weber ran over Tomas Kopecky heading into the Buffalo zone. Matthias was assessed a two minute minor for fighting, and Derek Roy (15) scored 30 seconds into the ensuing power play with an assist from Buffalo’s leading scorer Jason Pominville.
Jerred Smithson was called for tripping Christian Ehrhoff at the 14:20 mark, giving the Sabres their second power play of the period. The Panthers refused to let Buffalo get set, clearing the puck out five times and only allowing one shot, to Ehrhoff, near the end of the penalty.
Buffalo controlled play throughout the third period, as Florida only had one decent scoring chance when Mikael Samuelsson whiffed on a wide open net with two minutes remaining in regulation. The teams played on. Buffalo totalled four shots through the third, while the Panthers had only one.
The four-on-four action featured a lot of skating up and down the ice for both teams with no interruptions in play, neither team managed a single shot on goal for the entire five minutes. A shootout would be needed to settle the score (literally).
First: John Madden held on to the puck too long, as Miller stayed with it for a late kicksave.
Thomas Vanek tried to go five-hole on Theodore, but was easily pad saved.
Second: Wojtek Wolski beat Miller with a hard wrister stick side.
Tyler Ennis went high over Theodore’s glove side to tie it at one.
Third: Samuelsson shot too early, and was kick saved by Miller.
Jason Pominville was stuffed trying to go low on Theodore.
Fourth: Stephen Weiss went with a late backhand, stuffed by Miller.
Cody Hodgson missed the net wide.
Fifth: Marcel Goc went wide left on the net.
Brad Boyes beat Theodore, but missed off the crossbar.
Sixth: Sean Bergenheim was kick saved by Miller.
Derek Roy tried to go five hole, but Theodore closed up for the save.
Seventh: Dmitry Kulikov scored over Miller’s glove side to pull ahead.
Trying to avoid elimination, Drew Stafford was pad saved.
Hits: Panthers 40-31, (Corey Tropp led the Sabres with five, Jason Garrison, Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver had five each for Florida)
Blocked Shots: Sabres 16-13 (Justin Leopold had three blocks to lead the Sabres, Brian Campbell and Erik Gudbranson led Florida with three apiece)
Faceoffs: Tied, 28-28 (Stephen Weiss won 12-of-20 for the Cats, Derek Roy won 12-of-21 for the Sabres)
Shots on goal: Sabres 26-17 (Drew Stafford led Buffalo with four, John Madden and Mikael Samuelsson, three each for the Panthers)
Score: Florida 3, Buffalo 2