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Drew Stafford's fluke goal leads Buffalo Sabres past Florida Panthers

Stafford's fluke goal with 8:48 left in the third period snapped a tie and helped the Sabres break a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory Friday night.

"We've had some tough bounces go against us," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We got one there. But we got rewarded for putting the puck on net."

Stafford scored when his wrist shot bounced off goalie Tomas Vokoun's blocker high into the air, then fell in behind Vokoun.

"We got a couple of lucky breaks at the end there, but I think we needed those," Stafford said. "We're happy. We're smiling. I'll take it. They don't ask how. The biggest thing for me is the team, we're getting a break like that."

Buffalo's Daniel Paille looked as though he might have tipped the puck, but the goal was awarded after video review.

"I didn't touch it. I know that," Paille said. "Obviously I was trying to hit it. I was thankful that I missed it. It was just the bounces went our way tonight."

It was a tough way to give up a winner for Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun.

"I lost sight of the puck and it ended up falling into the net," Vokoun said. It's a bad goal and a bad break, too. The deciding goal in the game. That's a tough way to lose a game."

There was nothing fluky about the insurance goal Paille scored with three minutes left. Killing a penalty, Paille stole the puck from defenceman Mike Van Ryn and beat Vokoun on a breakaway with a wrist shot.

"I thought Danny's play was fabulous," Ruff said. "He was a big part of the penalty killing tonight."

Ales Kotalik and Jochen Hecht also scored for the Sabres in their first victory on the road after an 0-3 start. Jason Pominville had two assists.

Jozef Stumpel and Ville Peltonen scored for the Panthers, who lost at home for the second time in five games.

"I think the major factor was the specialty teams," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "They got a power-play goal. They got a short-handed goal. That was the difference in the hockey game, but we didn't win enough battles in front of the net for rebounds. We've got to be better."

Ryan Miller stopped 33 shots for Buffalo, including a big pad save on a tip-in by Olli Jokinen with a little over five minutes left.

Vokoun made 29 saves.

Paille put the game away with a short-handed goal with three minutes left. He stole the puck from defenceman Mike Van Ryn and beat Vokoun on a breakaway with a wrist shot.

Florida led 2-1 after two periods before Hecht tied it at 8:25 when he one-timed a pass from Pominville from behind the net.

The Panthers had taken the 2-1 lead late in the first period when Peltonen one-timed a Buffalo clearing attempt.

Notes: The Panthers signed veteran D Jassen Cullimore and assigned him to Rochester of the AHL for a two-week conditioning stint. ... Jokinen was honoured before the game after setting the franchise records for career points two nights earlier. ... Florida LW Rostislav Olesz was placed on the injured list after undergoing surgery on his right hand. ... Buffalo D Jaroslav Spacek missed his fourth consecutive game because of a shoulder injury. ... Florida D Steve Montador was used as a wing. ... Hecht's goal was the 300th point of his NHL career.


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