Panthers 4, Sabres 3

Florida Panthers storm back, get first road win

 

Brian Campbell scored a power-play goal in the third period as the Panthers rallied from a 3-1 deficit for their second win in a row.

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Brian Campbell was put in charge of organizing the Panthers’ Super Bowl watch party on Sunday night because he spent eight seasons playing for the Sabres.

Beforehand, he said he wanted the team to really be able to enjoy Sunday night by taking care of business that afternoon.

Campbell stuck to his word as his power-play goal midway through the third gave the Panthers their first lead of the day as Florida held on for a 4-3 win over the struggling Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Florida had trailed 3-1 midway through the second before mounting a second comeback in as many games.

“You wait for power-play chances, and we took advantage of it,’’ said Campbell, who held the team’s shindig in downtown Buffalo.

“We battled. We’re coming together as a team and starting to have more faith in each other to be able to come back. We didn’t have that earlier.

“You’re starting to see our team develop. With some pieces back, we can start doing what we did last year.’’

Said coach Kevin Dineen: “It’s a much better Super Bowl party now than it was 10 minutes into the second period.’’

The Panthers, who have won two in a row, avoided the first 0-4 road start in franchise history. The Panthers trailed 3-1 early in the second period, and it looked like they were headed down that path.

Then, like in the third period Thursday, the Panthers started putting the puck in the back of the net. First it was enforcer George Parros who drilled a nice pass from Stephen Weiss past Ryan Miller at 10:21 of the second to get things rolling.

Florida tied the score at 3 with 54 seconds left in the second when Peter Mueller scored for the fourth consecutive game by shoveling the puck past Miller after the puck deflected off him from a Drew Shore shot.

“It wasn’t on me as [Mike] Weaver made a great play up the middle and Shore did all the work,’’ Mueller said. “I was just fortunate it was on my stick at the time.

“I’m happy for the goal but more happy for the win. We’re building character. You have to build from something.’’

The Panthers took advantage of their first power play of the day midway through the third when Campbell rifled a shot from the left side that beat Miller top shelf.

The sellout crowd in Buffalo had seen enough as boos rained down on the Sabres. Sunday’s home loss to the Panthers came off a 6-1 loss in Montreal on Saturday afternoon as the Sabres dropped to 3-5-1.

Coach Lindy Ruff, the Sabres’ coach since leaving the Panthers bench in 1997, could really start feeling some external pressure.

Of course, that’s not the Panthers’ problem. Florida, now 3-5-0, moved closer to the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

“We didn’t want to wait this long to get one on the road,’’ Dineen said. “That was a little snapshot of our team, but you’re seeing how we need to play to have success. We got down by a couple and responded.’’

The Sabres had a lot of jump early on and took a 1-0 lead 2:46 into the game when Thomas Vanek banged in a rebound past Jose Theodore. Florida countered a few minutes later as Jarred Smithson won a faceoff in the Buffalo zone and fed it to Shawn Matthias, who ripped it through.

Buffalo made it 2-1 later in the first and then scored early in the third when Alexander Sulzer zipped one from beyond the left circle — a puck Theodore should have stopped.

Theodore was excellent from that point forward, however, although the Sabres looked tired and didn’t challenge much in the third. Again, not the Panthers’ problem.

“Jose has been the guy since I’ve been the coach here,’’ Dineen said. “There’s a trust level on both sides.’’

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