SUNRISE, Fla. – Thomas Vanek’s power-play goal served two very important purposes. It gave Buffalo all the offence it needed in a win over the Florida Panthers and got the Sabres out of a man-advantage rut on the road.
Vanek scored 40 seconds into the second period, snapping the Sabres’ 0-for-39 power-play skid on the road and lifting Buffalo to a 1-0 victory over the Panthers on Wednesday night.
“We’ve had a little bit of bad luck,” said Jason Pominville, who assisted on the goal. “We’ve been moving the puck well. We got one tonight and we’re happy about it.”
Ryan Miller made the goal stand up by stopping 32 shots for his second shutout of the season.
He outduelled Florida all-star Tomas Vokoun, who finished with 40 saves.
“Vokoun looked really good,” Miller said. “He made some great saves. Our team was buzzing early on. I’m glad we got the two points.”
It was Buffalo’s second victory in two nights and third straight overall after the Sabres lost 12 of 13. Buffalo moved past Washington into 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re going to continue to climb,” Vanek said. “We got ourselves in a hole, now we’ve got to get out of it.”
Florida fell for the 12th time in 15 home games. The Panthers went 10 minutes, 13 seconds without a shot in a span of the first and second periods.
“We’re a team. We’re going to have to find a way to win,” Vokoun said. “There’s no sense in pointing fingers, it’s not going to do us any good.”
The Panthers played the last two periods without captain and leading scorer Olli Jokinen, who was battling flu symptoms.
“He’s our big shooter,” Panthers forward Stephen Weiss said. “It’s tough when you lose a guy like that. That stuff happens. We have to find a way to score goals without him.”
Miller, whose other shutout came in a 6-0 victory over Atlanta Oct. 11, made his best save early in the third period when he stuck out his right leg to stop Weiss’ tip-in attempt off a pass from Nathan Horton.
“The chances were there, we just have to find a way to get it in the net,” Weiss said. “Their goalie played well, but there were some second and third chances, the puck lying around in the crease, but we were just half a second too late.”
Vanek scored the lone goal 40 seconds into the middle period while Florida’s Richard Zednik served a stick-holding penalty called with one second left in the first. Pominville fired a slap shot from the point, and Vanek one-timed the rebound past Vokoun.
It was Buffalo’s first power-play goal since the Sabres went 2-for-8 with the man advantage at Philadelphia on Dec. 22.
Buffalo almost added to the lead four minutes later when Ales Kotalik whizzed a wrist shot off a faceoff past Vokoun, but the puck bounced off the right post. Sabres centre Derek Roy also hit the post on a power play with about two minutes left in the third period.
“We could have scored a few more,” Vanek said. “They could have had a few, too. But in the end we deserved to win.”
Notes: Buffalo RW Drew Stafford left the game in the second period because of an ankle injury. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said he didn’t think the injury was serious. … Florida D Branislav Mezei (finger) and C Jozef Stumpel (shoulder) returned after missing the previous nine and seven games, respectively. … Weiss played in his 300th NHL game. … Buffalo C Tim Connolly missed his eighth game because of a groin injury.