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Sabres 5, Panthers 3 @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Jason Pominville and the Buffalo Sabres made sure that Ryan Miller still has something to play for in his return to goal.

With the Sabres in danger of falling out of serious playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, Pominville had a goal and two assists in a 2:07 third-period span to help Buffalo rally for a 5-3 victory over Florida on Wednesday night.

"We had to be desperate. This is that time of year," Pominville said.

Miller is set to return Friday night against Toronto after missing 13 games because of a sprained left ankle. The Sabres have gone 4-7-2 without him.

"Obviously, having Ryan on the verge of being back is huge," Pominville said. "He's an elite goalie. He's proven it in the past. He's ready to go."

Tim Connolly scored the go-ahead goal, and Clarke MacArthur, Craig Rivet and Maxim Afinogenov also scored for Buffalo, which snapped an 0-3-1 skid and improved to 2-5-1 in its last eight. With 78 points and nine games left, Buffalo remained 10th in the East but moved within five points of eighth-place Montreal.

The ninth-place Panthers squandered a chance to move into a tie with idle Montreal.

Brett McLean had a goal and assist, and Richard Zednik and Michael Frolik also scored for Florida, 1-4-3 in its last eight.

"I don't have an answer," defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "Obviously, we picked a bad time of the year to start blowing leads."

The Sabres, meanwhile, showed there's some fight left in them, responding to their critics - and a crowd that booed them through two periods.

"Everybody's been writing us off and telling us we have no character in this room and blah, blah, blah," goalie Mikael Tellqvist said. "This just shows everybody that we really want to win."

The third-stringer made 30 saves to earn his first win in only his second start for Buffalo since being acquired in a trade with Phoenix.

Pominville started the comeback, cutting the Panthers' lead to 3-2 at 6:14 of the third period. MacArthur tied it 51 seconds later, blasting a shot through goalie Tomas Vokoun's legs. Connolly scored a power-play goal at the 8:21 mark, when his shot from the point deflected in off Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester's stick.

"The goalie's got to close the door when you're in that situation," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "You know what? He didn't."

Vokoun finished with 40 saves.

"I'm still trying to realize what happened," Vokoun said.

At Chicago, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews scored in a shootout, and Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin turned away Jeremy Roenick on San Jose's final attempt.

San Jose overcame a 4-1 deficit to force overtime, tying it at 5 on Joe Thornton's goal with 2:08 left.

Andrew Ladd had two goals for Chicago, Toews added his 30th, and Martin Havlat and Dustin Byfuglien also scored. Chicago moved out of a tie with idle Vancouver for fourth place in the West with 89 points, passing its total from last season.

Devin Setoguchi scored twice for San Jose, tied with Detroit for the overall NHL lead, and Jamie McGinn and Marc-Edouard Vlasic added goals.

At Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season to help Pittsburgh keep pace in the Eastern playoff race.

Defensemen Kris Letang and Hal Gill scored, and Evgeni Malkin had two assists, giving him a career-high 107 points and extending his NHL scoring lead to 11 points.

After having its 12-game points streak snapped in a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, the Penguins beat the Flames to take over sole possession of sixth place in the conference with 88 points - a point behind Carolina and two behind Philadelphia.

At Denver, Corey Perry scored twice, Andrew Ebbett had a goal and two assists and Anaheim won its season-high fifth straight game and moved into seventh place in the West, a point ahead of idle Edmonton.

James Wisniewski tied a career high with three assists, Erik Christensen, Teemu Selanne, Rob Niedermayer and Petteri Nokelainen added goals, and Jonas Hiller made 34 saves. Milan Hejduk and Cody McLeod scored for Colorado.

At Raleigh, N.C., Rod Brind'Amour and Anton Babchuk scored third-period goals, and Cam Ward made 21 saves to help the Hurricanes win their season-high fifth straight and match a club record with their ninth home victory in a row.

Rod Brind'Amour tied it at 3:15 of the third and assisted on Babchuk's power-play goal with 6:01 left. Ryan Shannon scored for Ottawa, which ended a five-game winning streak.

At Uniondale, N.Y., Marian Gaborik had two goals and two assists in his third game since returning from hip surgery, and Minnesota snapped a five-game road losing streak.

Andrew Brunette and Owen Nolan each scored once and set up two others, Martin Skoula and Antti Miettinen added goals, and Niklas Backstrom made 32 saves for his 33rd victory. Minnesota jumped over St. Louis and tied ninth-place Nashville with 78 points in the West - a point behind eighth-place Edmonton and two behind Anaheim.

Bruno Gervais and Andy Hilbert scored for the Islanders.

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