The goals are coming for the Buffalo Sabres, however, lately, they haven’t been able to keep them out of their own net.
Drew Stafford scored twice in the first period and added an assist to lead Buffalo, but the Sabres fell to the Florida Panthers 4-3 at First Niagara Center on Tuesday. Sabres captain Steve Ott scored midway through the third period for the 100th goal of his career to bring Buffalo within one goal.
The Panthers tied the game after each of Stafford’s goals with tallies by Jesse Winchester and Sean Bergenheim. Florida entered the first intermission with a 3-2 lead after Ed Jovanovski, playing in his 1,100th NHL game, beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller with 1:04 remaining in the first period. Jovanovski’s go-ahead goal came 52 seconds after Bergenheim scored. Nick Bjustad scored late in the third to extend the Panther’s lead.
The Sabres have now scored three goals in each of their past four games, but have only two points in the standings to show for it.
“Now that we are getting a little more offense, we need to start cleaning up our own end and boxing out a little bit more, maybe picking up some more sticks. Some of the goals were some tips and the fourth one, that was a heck of a shot.”
Buffalo had an opportunity to tie the game with an extended power play with 6:42 remaining in regulation. The Sabres started with a 4-on-3 advantage and after the Panthers killed off that chance, it went from a 4-on-4 to a 5-on-4 Sabres advantage. However, they were unable to score and ended up going 2-for-7 on the power play in the game.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan would have liked to have seen more from his special teams unit.
“Obviously it wasn’t good enough tonight. We have a great opportunity 4-on-3 for almost a minute-and-a-half and then we have a 5-on-4,” he said. “We just didn’t get the shots through.”
Tyler Ennis, who assisted on Stafford’s second goal, extended his point streak to five games. He has two goals and four assist during that stretch.
Miller made 18 saves in the game, and despite the first three goals going in off deflections, wasn’t pleased with his effort.
“It wasn’t one of my better games. It wasn’t a very clean game, a little sloppy on my part in a few of those situations but that’s the way it goes over the course of a season,” he said. “The first period didn’t do me any favors, so it looks pretty ugly.”
Stafford’s goals were his sixth and seventh of the season and Tuesday was his first multi-goal game since March 16, 2013.
Stafford’s first goal came 2:23 into the game on the power play. It marked the first time the Panthers had given up a power-play goal in 10 games. They had killed 29-straight power-play opportunities up to that point.
However, the Sabres were unable to sustain that early momentum. Ott cited turnovers and poor defensive coverage as some of the reasons as to why the game slipped away from his club.
“It doesn’t matter how many goals you score sometimes. You always hope to score obviously because our team’s had our struggles to score throughout the season, but our total game wasn’t even close to where it needs to be for us to have success,” he said.
Ott recorded the primary assist on Stafford’s first goal and with his own goal in the third period, has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his last nine games against the Panthers.
The goal marked his 100th in the NHL.
“Anytime you get a milestone, an individual milestone in a team game, it’s exciting,” he said. “If I was a kid and you asked me if I’d ever score 100 goals in the NHL, I would’ve taken it and been pretty proud. It would’ve been a lot nicer to have that in a winning situation, but maybe later on down the years, I can look back and still see that puck sitting on the wall or something.”
The Sabres are back in action Thursday night as they close out their three-game homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m.