BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Jason Pominville scored his team-leading 24th goal and the Buffalo Sabres inched closer to clinching the Northeast Division title with a 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.
Raffi Torres had three assists in his first game back after missing six because of a hand injury, and Ryan Miller made 13 saves for his 39th victory — one short of matching a career high. The injury-depleted Sabres also got production from their role players as defenseman Henrik Tallinder, fourth-liner Adam Mair and rookies Tim Kennedy, Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis also scored.
Buffalo (43-23-10) won for the seventh time in eight games to move seven points ahead of second-place Ottawa in the division with 11 days left in the regular season.
Michael Frolik and Jeff Taffe scored for Florida, which is all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
The Panthers extended their winless string to four (0-3-1), and looked like a team with little to play for. After Taffe opened the scoring less than 2 minutes in, Florida gave up four straight goals and was eventually outshot 41-15, including 20-2 in the second period.
Pominville tied it from behind the goal line by banking a shot in off of Tomas Vokoun's skate after the goalie stopped Tallinder's snap shot. Kennedy then scored the go-ahead goal to cap a 3-on-2 rush with 1:51 left in the frame by roofing a shot into the top left corner.
Gerbe scored a power-play goal, snapping a shot through a crowd in front, to make it 3-1 at the 9:31 of the second period before the Panthers registered their first shot on goal of the frame.
After Frolik cut the lead to 4-2 early in the third period, Ennis and Tallinder responded to seal the victory by scoring 33 seconds apart to make it 6-2 with just under 12 minutes left.
The Sabres were playing without two top-line forwards. Center Tim Connolly (foot) missed his third game, while left wing Thomas Vanek (lower body) missed his second game. With his goal, Pominville moved one ahead of Vanek for the team lead.
Sabres defenseman and NHL rookie of the year candidate Tyler Myers earned his rookie-leading 35th assist. That moved him one ahead of Gilbert Perreault among Buffalo rookies and into a tie with Derek Plante for fifth on the team list.
NOTES: Panthers' Taffe was called up earlier in the day from Rochester of the AHL after LW Rostislav Olesz was scratched because of a nagging hand injury. ... The Sabres close their schedule playing five of their final six games on the road, starting at Toronto on Thursday. ... The Panthers are on the verge of missing the playoffs for a ninth straight season, which would match the longest NHL drought set by the New Jersey Devils/Colorado Rockies from 1978-1987. The Sabres, by comparison, have missed the playoffs just 11 times in their 40-season history.