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Zadorov scores, Sabres top Panthers for third straight

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres are showing they're resilient in more ways than one.

Nikita Zadorov scored 29 seconds into overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres a 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers at First Niagara Center on Saturday.

Zadorov's first goal of the season came when he received a pass from Tyler Ennis and took a slap shot that beat Panthers goalie Al Montoya.

"Finally I did it and it's a great feeling, especially in overtime in the National Hockey League," Zadorov said. "I probably never had that big a goal in my life. It's a great feeling and I'm going to try to do it again."

It was Zadorov's second NHL goal, his first game-winner.

"I told [Zadorov] before the game, I said I think he's getting one tonight," Ennis said. "I don't want to say that I called it, but I called it. He did a good job slipping in and I just tried to be patient and [he got it]."

The Sabres trailed 3-2 in the third period and lost defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Josh Gorges to injury but came back to win.

"The one thing we talked about early was compete factor," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "If we compete, good things can happen, and now we're starting to play with some structure and discipline. Anybody can beat anybody on a given night and right now we feel real good. The team feels good about themselves, they're playing hard for one another, and when you do that, good things happen. So right now, knock on wood, things are going good for us."

Meszaros left the game at 11:35 of the second period after he took a puck in the face from Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Gorges left the game in the third period after he blocked a shot.

"They both went for their reviews and so they both look very doubtful for our next game," Nolan said. "We'll cross our fingers and hope for the best."

The Sabres (12-16-2) won their third straight and ended a five-game losing streak against the Panthers (12-9-7). Buffalo has won nine of the past 12 games after it won three of the first 18.

It wasn't an easy night for Zadorov and his partner Rasmus Ristolainen; the young pair struggled in the second period. The Panthers tied the game 2-2 when Sean Bergenheim and Jimmy Hayes scored at 1:08 and 4:51. Bergenheim's goal came off a turnover by Ristolainen and a shot that deflected off Zadorov.

"[Assistant coach] Bryan Trottier came right down and said, 'Hey, let's get right back on the horse,'" Nolan said. "You don't belittle and blame them. You've got to nurture them. They're two young defensemen, probably the two youngest in the National Hockey League, but for them to rebound you've got to give them a lot of credit. They're two outstanding young men."

Zadorov (19 years old) and Ristolainen (20) bounced back from those mistakes when injuries struck and their ice time increased.

"Playing more, playing better and I don't know ... maybe it's just bringing more energy," said Zadorov, who played 23:21. "I feel in the game more and you're not sitting on the bench for minutes between shifts and getting cold. When you're playing every shift, you're getting better."

Buffalo forward Brian Gionta made it 3-3 with his fourth goal of the season at 8:27 of the third period. Gionta was sent on a short breakaway with a pass from defenseman Tyler Myers and took a snap shot that beat Montoya to the blocker side.

"One reason that worked was because he was screaming his head off for it," Myers said. "When you've got guys that want the puck that much, that makes it that much easier to get it to them."

Jussi Jokinen gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead when he scored 57 seconds into the third. He was set up by Dave Bolland for a one-timer after he stole the puck from Sabres forward Torrey Mitchell. Bolland held the puck and passed across the zone to Jokinen, who took a slap shot that beat Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth.

The Panthers played the second game of a back-to-back set. They defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout Friday.

"There wasn't anything good going on," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "I just said to the guys, we are a lot better than this and if we keep this up we have no chance."

The Sabres built a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Cody Hodgson (2:06) and Marcus Foligno (13:05). Hodgson returned to the Sabres lineup after he was a healthy scratch against the Calgary Flames on Thursday. It was his first goal since Oct. 25.

"It was nice to see Cody," Nolan said. "He got exactly where goal-scorers have got to get to. And [Patrick] Kaleta, for almost missing a year of hockey, to snap that backhand pass to Cody and Cody to get in that position to snap it as quick as he did, that was nice to see also."

Kaleta's assist was his first point since April 7, 2013, and his first assist since March 7, 2012.

"That's exactly what we talked about. We're trying to build a team," Nolan said. "A team usually doesn't rely on one line. … We're the type of team that needs all 20."

Montoya made 28 saves; Enroth made 25. The Panthers ended a three-game road trip 1-1-1.

"It's a .500 road trip," Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said. ".500 to me is not good enough, especially when we've been so close in some of these games."

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