Drew Stafford scored twice in the first period and added an assist in the third, but the Florida Panthers hung on for a 4-3 win over the Sabres at First Niagara Center on Tuesday. Ryan Miller took the loss, stopping 18 shots -- his lowest save total of the season.
Stafford gave Buffalo the early 1-0 lead with his second goal in as many games, this one coming on the power play at 2:23 of the first. Linus Omark worked hard along the boards to keep the puck in the Florida zone, eventually working it to Steve Ott. The Sabres captain fed a wide-open Stafford in the slot who beat Tim Thomas to put Buffalo ahead.
It didn't take long for Florida to tie things up on a Jesse Winchester deflection, but the Sabres struck back just 2:10 later on Stafford's second goal of the evening. Parked in the slot, Stafford gained possession after Mike Weber flattened Jonathan Huberdeau and roofed a shot into the Florida net, putting Buffalo back on top 2-1.
A pair of quick goals late in the opening period, however, sent the Panthers to the dressing room ahead 3-2. Florida tied it at 18:04 thanks to another deflection, this one courtesy of Sean Bergenheim who redirected a Tom Gilbert shot past Miller. Only 52 seconds later, Ed Jovanovski's first of the season gave the Panthers a one-goal lead. Jovanovski stepped into a shot just inside the blue line, sending the puck over Miller's right shoulder and into the net. Nick Bjugstad made it 4-2 with a little over four minutes remaining in the second period, blasting a shot high into the Buffalo net.
Buffalo got back within a goal at 8:36 of the third when Ott finished off a scramble in front of Thomas, good for the Sabres' second power play tally of the night. The goal marked Ott's sixth of the season and 100th of his NHL career. The Sabres had an opportunity to even the score late when Brad Boyes was hit with a four-minute double minor for high sticking, but couldn't beat Thomas. The Panthers netminder came up with 32 saves in the win.
The Sabres return to action against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. Hear the call on WGR 550 and the Buffalo Sabres Radio Network.
2:23 - BUF - Drew Stafford (6) (PPG) (Steve Ott, Linus Omark)
4:06 - FLA - Jesse Winchester (6) (Ed Jovanovski, Jonathan Huberdeau)
6:16 - BUF - Drew Stafford (7) (Tyler Ennis)
18:04 - FLA - Sean Bergenheim (11) (Tom Gilbert, Aleksander Barkov)
18:56 - FLA - Ed Jovanovski (1) (Unassisted)
0:56 - FLA - Dmitry Kulikov (2 min., high sticking)
7:32 - BUF - Tyler Myers (2 min., holding)
16:12 - Nick Bjugstad (11) (Brian Campbell, Tom Gilbert)
3:29 - FLA - Scottie Upshall (2 min., tripping)
13:01 - FLA - Dmitry Kulikov (2 min., holding)
8:36 - BUF - Steve Ott (6) (PPG) (Drew Stafford, Ville Leino)
6:59 - FLA - Jesse Winchester (2 min., slashing)
12:47 - FLA - Ed Jovanovski (2 min., hooking)
13:03 - BUF - Linus Omark (2 min., interference)
13:18 - FLA - Brad Boyes (4 min. double minor, high sticking)
FLA - Tim Thomas (32 saves, 35 shots)
BUF - Ryan Miller (18 saves, 22 shots)
FLA - 0 of 1
BUF - 2 of 7
1.) BUF - Drew Stafford (2 G, 1 A)
2.) FLA - Ed Jovanovski (1 G, 1 A)
3.) BUF - Steve Ott (1 G, 1 A)