Against the pesky Panthers, who handed Buffalo their worst loss of the season on December 12, the most potent offense in the league was limited to just 16 shots on net. It just so happened that two of those choice shots found the back of the net and Buffalo was able to limit Florida to a single goal on 33 offerings. Thomas Vanek
scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season in the second period while Maxim Afinogenov netted his 14th just minutes into the third as Buffalo improved to 24-5-2 on the season.
"You have to play a patient game in a lot of senses," said defenseman Brian Campbell. "Sometimes shots are going in and sometimes they're not. When they aren't, you just have to win a game 1-0 or 2-1."
"We passed up some pretty good opportunities tonight," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "We'd been rewarded for making some of those plays earlier this season."
Buffalo may have been out shot, but the difference in opportunities between the two teams was closer than the stats sheet suggested.
"They got more shots but there shots were from the outside," said forward Maxim Afinogenov. "I think we got more chances on the night."
"They had shots, but the opportunities they had, we did a really good job of taking care of them," said goaltender Ryan Miller
, who made 32 stops on the night. "I was able to see the puck and make plays."
Winning in New Jersey 3-2 on Tuesday night and against Florida in Buffalo's first home game since finishing their season-long, five-game road trip has helped the team learn how to grind out victories.
"We stayed away from the odd number situations which was our goal the last couple of nights," said Ruff. "We just have to learn to adapt and win those close games."
For the fourth game in a row, action went into the second period scoreless. The last time that Buffalo scored in the opening period was back on December 5, as the Sabres scored three times in a 4-1 victory against Tampa Bay.
In the opening frame, Miller held Florida scoreless with 10 saves, including a great grab on Florida's Gary Roberts who was parked on the doorstep with just 1:11 remaining in the period.
Vanek scored at 4:20 into the second period after receiving a feed from Derek Roy
, stickhandling to gain control in front and flipping a shot over a downed Ed Belfour.
Josef Stumpel tied the game 1-1 with his seventh on the season at 7:02 of the second. Receiving a fortunate ricochet off the boards by the left post, Stumpel moved out front and slipped the puck just inside the right post for his seventh goal of the season.
Afinogenov gave Buffalo the 2-1 lead as he scored on a five-on-three man advantage just 1:19 into the final frame. Parked to the right side of the net, Afinogenov roofed the puck over Belfour, after receiving the pass from Chris Drury from the left side of the crease to record his fith power-play goal of the season.
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