BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Ed Jovanovski scored the go-ahead goal and added an assist in his 1,100th career game, sparking the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
Sean Bergenheim, Jesse Winchester and Nick Bjugstad also scored for Florida, which improved to 4-0-1 in its past five trips to Buffalo. Tom Gilbert set up two goals in helping the Panthers overcome a pair of one-goal first-period deficits and then hang on for the win.
Tim Thomas stopped 32 shots, including 15 shots in the final period to improve to 7-3-2 in his past 12 games.
Drew Stafford scored twice and Steve Ott also scored for the Sabres (13-28-7), who dropped to 0-2-2 in their past four.
Ott’s goal 8:36 into the third period cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-3, but the Sabres failed to capitalize on three power-play chances over the final 7:13. That included a 4-minute power-play after Panthers forward Brad Boyes was issued a double-minor penalty for high-sticking Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder.
Panthers rookie center Aleksander Barkov did not return after sustaining a lower-body injury. The Panthers announced the news early in the second period of their game on Tuesday night. It’s unclear when Barkov was hurt or the severity of the injury.
The Panthers (20-23-7) won on consecutive nights after a 5-1 win at Pittsburgh that snapped the Penguins’ franchise-best home winning streak at 13. They also managed to score four goals in regulation in consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2013.
Thomas was particularly sharp on back-to-back chances the Sabres had early in the third period to preserve a 4-2 Panthers lead.
First, Thomas got his left pad out to get a piece of Stafford’s shot from the left circle on a 2-on-1 break 90 seconds into the frame. Some 40 seconds later, Thomas got his glove up to foil Cody Hodgson, who was in alone to preserve the two-goal edge.
The Panthers surged to a 3-2 lead late in the first period when Bergenheim and Jovanovski scored 52 seconds apart.
Bergenheim was parked in the slot redirected Gilbert’s hard centering pass from the right boards to tie it at 2 with 1:56 left in the period.
Jovanovski then put the Panthers ahead for good by scoring on what appeared to be an innocent shot atop the left circle. The puck, however, glanced off the outstretched stick of Sabres defenseman Mike Weber and floated past goalie Ryan Miller.
Bjugstad provided the Panthers insurance, upping their lead to 4-2 with 3:42 left in the second period when he snapped a shot from the left circle that beat Miller high on the short side.
Jovanovski’s goal was the 137th of his career, but first since April 5, 2012, after he spent much of the past year and a half sidelined by injuries. He had hip surgery in April and didn’t make his season debut until Jan. 4.
Both of Stafford’s goals came when he was set up in the slot. Ott’s goal came during a scramble in front and after Thomas had stopped Stafford’s attempt to jam it in at the right post.
NOTES: Sabres D Tallinder returned after missing eight games with an upper-body injury. … Both teams entered the night having identical 9-9-7 records this season in games decided by one goal. … Stafford’s opening goal came on the man advantage, ending the Panthers’ streak of 29 consecutive power-plays without a goal. The streak is tied for fifth on the team list, and seven short of matching the record set Feb. 16-29, 2004, according to STATS.