Ric Jackman scored the winning goal and Alex Auld made 17 saves as the Panthers beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Thursday night. Stephen Weiss and Olli Jokinen also scored for the Panthers, who won back-to-back games for just the second time this season. Florida hadn’t won consecutive games since Oct. 11-13, when it beat Carolina and Tampa Bay.
“Everybody can be proud of their efforts tonight and the way we played,” Jokinen said. “We’re going keep working hard and try to get better every day.”
Daniel Briere scored for Buffalo and Ryan Miller stopped 35 shots.
“It was an excellent game,” Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. “I thought we really worked hard. “We made some good decisions and moved the puck. We know they are the best team in the conference. We came back (after a six-game losing streak), picked ourselves up and it’s not too late.”
Jackman’s goal put Florida ahead 2-1 less than a minute into the third period. Nathan Horton brought the puck down the ice to the right circle, then backhanded to Jackman, who put the puck past Miller for his first goal of the season.
“I just tried to put it in the net and thankfully it went in,” Jackman said. “That was a big goal for our team and we built off it.
“This was a huge win.”
The Panthers stretched their lead to 3-1 on a power-play goal with 5:53 remaining when Weiss poked in the rebound of a Jay Bouwmeester shot that bounced off Miller’s left leg.
“We weren’t ready to play and I’ll take the hit for that,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We thought the game was going to be easy.
“We had one guy who played tonight and that was our goalie. After (our) goal, I should have called time-out and had everyone go pat (Miller) on the pads just to thank him for keeping us there.”
Buffalo tied the score 1-1 during a five-on-three power play in the second. Chris Drury’s shot was blocked by Auld but Briere picked up the loose puck and slipped it into the right corner of the net at 19:27. The Sabres had taken only seven shots on goal to that point but got off six with the two-man advantage.
“Besides that 5-on-3 we were never able to get anything offensively,” Briere said. “It was one of those night we couldn’t get our legs going.
“This is the worst I’ve seen this year.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on Jokinen’s power-play goal at 4:53 of the second. Weiss took a shot from the left circle that Miller blocked, and Jokinen was there to drill the puck past Miller’s outstretched left leg.
“We got the puck turned around on us quite a bit tonight,” Miller said. “It’s frustrating for us but we need to be better.”
Notes: Briere has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games against Florida … Jokinen has three goals and four assists during a four-game points streak at home …The Panthers played their first game without 20-year veteran Joe Nieuwendyk, who retired Wednesday due to chronic back ailments.