The Florida Panthers underwent the NHL's version of "Extreme Makeover" this summer in an effort to end a playoff drought that dates to 2000. So far, so good.
The Panthers rebounded from a last-second, 4-3 loss in Ottawa on Thursday by scoring a pair of late goals to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Saturday night.
The Sabres, who have struggled to win at home, certainly looked like they were set up for a victory after Jason Pominville scored a power-play goal with 7:07 remaining in regulation to give them a 2-1 lead. Twenty-two seconds later, a win looked even more likely when Florida's Marco Sturm received a boarding major and a game misconduct for slamming Jordan Leopold into the boards from behind. But Buffalo's Drew Stafford drew a roughing penalty as well after he shoved Sturm in retaliation, Nathan Gerbe was then called for tripping with 5:19 left -- compounding the situation by earning a second minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Tomas Fleischmann tied the game during the 4-on-4, and Jason Garrison's power-play one-timer from the slot with 1:43 left gave the Panthers their second win in three games on the road, and sixth in their first 10 games overall.
"We talked a lot about all this new personnel we have, and you can do all the team-bonding stuff you want, it's game's like (this) that make a difference for you," said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, who, like most of his players, is a newcomer to Florida. "It turns into a good road trip -- could have been a great road trip, but you've got to like the bounce-back game."
Garrison's goal came just two seconds after Sturm's penalty expired.
"Their defenseman backed up a bit and I let the puck go," Garrison said.
Pominville broke a 1-1 tie when he set up in the left circle, took a cross-ice pass from Brad Boyes, kicked the puck onto his stick and snapped a shot past Jose Theodore. But the Panthers didn't get down on themselves.
"We're playing good hockey," said Theodore, who finished with 24 saves. "Even in Ottawa we think we could have won that game. The guys are really dedicated to the little details, and to playing real well."
Florida opened the scoring when Marcel Goc got his second of the season 6:48 into the second period. He was at right of the net just above the goal line when he spun around and whipped a shot that banked in off Miller's right pad.
Thomas Vanek tied it with his eighth of the season at 18:14, making a move around defenseman Brian Campbell and stuffing the puck past Theodore.
Buffalo (6-4-0) has dropped three of its past four and has just one win in four games at the First Niagara Center.
"We have to wake up and do what it takes to play a system in this League," Miller said. "You're not going to get away with making cute plays, you're not going to be able to carry the puck in ... you're not going to have that luxury. Too many mistakes -- myself included. We're all accountable here."
Midway through the first period, a video review overturned Matt Ellis' goal when it was determined he had kicked the puck in from just outside the crease on a feed from Boyes from the right corner.
"The energy level of our game wasn't good," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "There's no excuses for it."
1 - 0 FLA
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 BUF
2 - 2 Tie