SUNRISE, Fla. – The Buffalo Sabres needed only about five minutes to beat the struggling Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.
Mike Grier, Jason Pominville and Matt Ellis each scored early in the opening period to lift the Sabres to a 5-2 win over Florida.
Tyler Myers and Thomas Vanek also scored in the first for the Sabres (5-1-1), who opened a three-game road trip. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who hasn’t lost in regulation this season, stopped 41 shots. Miller had the night off Saturday when Buffalo lost 4-2 to Atlanta.
“I was very impressed with the start,” Miller said. “I think that everyone in the room recognized that our last home start wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted to definitely come back and prove that we could bring our game together and not lose two in a row. That’s going to be important over the course of a season.”
Steve Reinprecht and Rostislav Olesz had goals for the Panthers (2-5-0).
Scott Clemmensen, who helped Florida snap a four-game skid with a win over Philadelphia last Friday, made his second straight start in goal for Florida, but didn’t last long this time. He was replaced by Tomas Vokoun after giving up two goals on three shots in less than two minutes. Vokoun finished with 30 saves.
“That’s the fastest I’ve ever been pulled,” Clemmensen said. “It is what it is. I’m not going to let it bother me. I know when I let in good goals, bad goals, when my angle is off, those sorts of things. I’m old enough, I think I’ve got the right philosophy. There’s not much you can do about it.”
As it turns out, it was the fastest any Florida goalie has ever been pulled from a start in franchise history. Clemmensen’s early departure at 1:56 in the first period beat a mark set by former Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, who left a 2001 game after just 3:47 in the first because of an injury, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“We needed a spark,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said of the decision to pull Clemmensen. “It wasn’t because of the play of the goaltender. We weren’t ready to play. I tried to shock them into getting themselves back in the game. Sometimes those things work, sometimes they don’t and obviously it didn’t tonight.”
Grier beat Clemmensen 1:11 into the first for his second goal of the season. Then, with Kamil Kreps in the penalty box for hooking, Pominville got a power-play goal just 45 seconds later to put the Sabres up 2-0 and chase Clemmensen.
“They were good goals,” Clemmensen said. “On the first the guy is in all alone. On the scoreboard I saw three shots against. I didn’t see the other two. The one save I made I didn’t see it. On the second goal, I didn’t even know where the puck was, let alone who shot it or what happened. I can’t stop what I don’t see. I don’t think I let in two bad goals, they were two good goals.”
Buffalo went up 3-0 at 4:37 in the first on Ellis’ goal and Myers scored on a shot from the blue line at 10:20 in the opening period to give the Sabres a commanding four-goal lead.
With 5:49 left in the first, Reinprecht recorded Florida’s lone goal of the period. An apparent goal by Reinprecht in the third period was disallowed because it was determined that the puck was knocked in with his hand.
“Whatever goals they score, we’ve got to bounce back,” Florida left wing David Booth said. “We had chance to get back in the game, even down 3-0 and 4-1. We’ve got to do that if we expect to get back into games.”
Buffalo scored again with 3:12 left in the opening period, when Vokoun landed on his back and slid into the net during a scuffle in front of the Panthers’ goal. Vanek, who missed Buffalo’s last two games with an upper-body injury, knocked the puck into the net to make it 5-1.
“There was no question on the work ethic in the game. I think we worked throughout the game,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “We didn’t make a lot of good decisions at times, but I thought our work ethic was really good.”
Olesz scored a power-play goal with 2:13 left in the third to make it 5-2.
Notes: Buffalo went 3-1-0 against Florida last season. … The Sabres face the Panthers three more times this season. The two teams next meet Nov. 18 in Buffalo. … Buffalo LW Clarke MacArthur suffered from flu-like symptoms earlier in the week and wore a surgical mask on the team’s flight to South Florida, but was in Buffalo’s starting lineup Wednesday.