Conklin made 42 saves and helped the Sabres snap a season-worst, four-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the Florida Panthers.
“My mindset going into it was that I want to make a good impression, you want the guys to feel confident with you in the net,” Conklin said. “While it’s only one game, it’s a bit of a start.”
Conklin, acquired from Columbus on Feb. 27 for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft, stood tall for the Sabres, who were outshot 45-20.
“I think it gives everybody a lot of confidence,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “He hasn’t played a lot.
“For him to get in and see the action he did, we’re happy with the win and happy with the way he played.”
Chris Drury broke a 3-3 tie at 9:50 of the third period when he tipped in Brian Campbell’s slapshot from the point.
Drew Stafford scored twice for Buffalo, including an insurance goal at 15:17. Jason Pominville and Dainius Zubrus also had goals for Buffalo, which hadn’t won since beating Toronto on March 3. Campbell had three assists.
“We’re desperate a little bit right now,” Campbell said. “It’s a big game for us.
“We’ve struggled in this building, too, lately and we knew that going in. So we came in trying to play a little bit more of a team game.”
Elsewhere in the NHL, it was: Flyers 3, Thrashers 2; Bruins 4, Capitals 3 (SO); Senators 5, Islanders 2; Devils 3, Hurricanes 2; Wild 2, Oilers 1; Stars 4, Flames 2; Canucks 3, Blues 2 (OT); Sharks 5, Coyotes 1; and Blackhawks 4, Kings 3 (SO).
At Sunrise, Fla., Nathan Horton had two goals for Florida, which lost at home in regulation for only the second time in 11 games (8-2-1). Stephen Weiss added a goal and two assists while linemate Martin Gelinas had two assists.
Ed Belfour, who tied a franchise record with his 22nd consecutive start, stopped 15 shots.
“When you get 45 shots you expect a little more,” Horton said. “Obviously, their goalie played good.
“We didn’t score when we needed to and they did. That’s the game.”
Buffalo, which leads the Eastern Conference with 96 points, rallied from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 and took a 3-2 lead into the third.
Horton tied it at 2:45 when a wrist shot from the point was deflected to the side of the net. He then fired it past Conklin.
Conklin, whose last start came Feb. 25, kept the Sabres even with a couple of big saves off deflections, including a tip by Florida centre Olli Jokinen.
“He played a great game for us,” Campbell said. “He faced a lot of tough shots from the point that were deflections.
“For not playing for a couple of weeks, it was an effort we really needed from him.”
After Drury put Buffalo in front, Stafford made it 5-3 when he fired Campbell’s pass from behind the net.
“We’ve got a pretty good skill level as a team, we’ve got a lot who can make plays,” Stafford said. “It’s easy when you’re just standing there, and Brian Campbell makes good passes and Thomas Vanek, playing with those guys.
“All you have to do is keep your stick on the ice.”
Weiss’s goal gave Florida a 1-0 lead after the first period, during which the Panthers held a 15-5 shots advantage.
The Sabres answered with three goals in the second period. Stafford gave Buffalo its first lead of the game when he finished off a pretty three-way passing play by tipping in Campbell s cross-ice setup.
“For the first time coming here and making an impression like he did, that was huge,” Stafford said of Conklin. “The first period, he kept us in it.
“He saved us. We just had to get back to playing, and we did. A lot of guys played well, starting with Conklin all the way out.”
Flyers 3, Thrashers 2
At Philadelphia, Stefan Ruzicka had a goal and two assists to lead the Flyers over Atlanta, giving Philadelphia a season sweep of the Southeast Division-leading Thrashers.
Bruins 4, Capitals 3 (SO)
At Boston, Patrice Bergeron scored to tie the game in the third period, then beat Olaf Kolzig again in the shootout as Boston rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat Washington.
Senators 5, Islanders 2
At Ottawa, Chris Neil, Dean McAmmond and Jason Spezza scored goals 1:16 apart early in the third period, leading Ottawa over New York.
Devils 3, Hurricanes 2
At Raleigh, N.C., Erik Rasmussen and Zach Parise scored third-period goals to lead New Jersey over Carolina.
Wild 2, Oilers 1
At Edmonton, Marian Gaborik scored an insurance goal 7:22 into the third period and Minnesota held on for a victory that sent the Oilers to their ninth straight loss.
Stars 4, Flames 2
At Dallas, Mike Modano moved within a goal of matching Joe Mullen for the lead among U.S.-born players, and Dallas stretched its winning streak to four games.
Canucks 3, Blues 2 (OT)
At Vancouver, Daniel Sedin’s power-play goal 1:09 into overtime earned the Canucks a win over St. Louis.
Sharks 5, Coyotes 1
At Glendale, Ariz., Joe Thornton had a goal and three assists, and Jonathan Cheechoo scored twice to lift San Jose over Phoenix.
Blackhawks 4, Kings 3 (SO)
At Los Angeles, Tuomo Ruutu scored the tying goal in the third period and Nikita Alexeev netted the deciding goal in the seventh round of the shootout for Chicago.