BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Florida Panthers found a way to hold a late lead and hang on for the win.
Jason Garrison’s power-play goal with 1:43 left in regulation snapped a third-period tie and lifted the Panthers to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
The victory came two days after Florida allowed Ottawa to score the winner with under three seconds left after Kris Versteeg tied the game with 47.1 seconds to go.
“We’re playing good hockey,” said goalie Jose Theodore, who finished with 24 saves. “Even in Ottawa we think we could have won that game. The guys are really dedicated to the little details, and to playing real well.”
Garrison’s goal capped an unusual final seven minutes after Jason Pominville put the Sabres on top 2-1 with a power-play goal at 12:53.
With 6:45 left, Florida’s Marco Sturm received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for slamming Buffalo defenceman Jordan Leopold into the boards from behind. But Buffalo’s Drew Stafford was handed a roughing penalty as well after he shoved Sturm in retaliation.
Buffalo’s Nathan Gerbe then received an additional minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he argued his tripping penalty with 5:19 to play.
With the teams at four skaters each, Tomas Fleischmann tied it at 2-2 with just under four minutes to play.
Two seconds after Sturm’s major penalty expired—and with Gerbe still in the penalty box—Garrison ripped a one-timer past Ryan Miller from the high slot on a pass from Brian Campbell for the winner.
“Their defenceman backed up a bit and I let the puck go,” Garrison said.
Marcel Goc also scored for the Panthers (6-4-0), who won for the third time in their past four games by suffocating the Sabres’ offence.
Tomas Kopecky added three assists, while Garrison also had an assist for Florida, which finished its three-game road trip with two wins.
“We played a solid game,” Theodore said. “I saw the puck well. When you can see the puck you can control the rebounds and play all the shooters well.”
Thomas Vanek also scored, and Miller finished with 33 saves for the slumping Sabres (6-4-0). Buffalo has dropped three of its past four after opening the season with four wins in the first five games.
“We have to wake up and do what it takes to play a system in this league,” Miller said. “You’re not going to get away with making cute plays, you’re not going to be able to carry the puck in…you’re not going to have that luxury. Too many mistakes, myself included. We’re all accountable here.”
After a scoreless first period, the Panthers struck first when Goc notched his second of the season 6:48 into the second. From the right of the net just above the goal line, he spun around and whipped a shot that banked in off Miller’s right pad.
Vanek tied it at 1-1 with his eighth with 1:46 left in the second. After making a move around Campbell, Vanek went around the net and stuffed the puck in.
Midway through the first period a video review overturned Matt Ellis’ goal when it was determined he had kicked the puck in from just outside the crease on a feed from Brad Boyes from the right corner.
“The energy level of our game wasn’t good,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “There’s no excuses for it.”
NOTES: Sturm played in his 899th career NHL game, and is one game shy of becoming the first German-born player to play in 900 NHL games. … The Sabres dropped to 12-6-0 in their past 18 meetings with the Panthers. … Theodore was playing for the first time since leaving his start against the New York Islanders on Oct. 22 with a lower-body injury. … Miller picked up his 23rd career NHL shutout in a 3-0 Sabres win at Florida on Oct. 20.