(Saturday, March 17th)
Final Score: Florida 3, Buffalo 2 (SO)
Sunrise, FL (Sports Network) - Dmitry Kulikov scored the game-winning goal in the seventh round of the shootout as the Florida Panthers squeezed past the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, on Saturday at BankAtlantic Center.
Kulikov, playing in his first game after missing the previous 23 due to knee surgery, picked up the puck and went in slowly on Sabres netminder Ryan Miller. Kulikov waited for Miller to make his move, faked to the backhand, and lifted the puck over the outstretched glove of Miller for the winner.
Drew Stafford had a chance to extend the shootout for Buffalo, but his low, hard wrist shot was stopped by the right pad of Jose Theodore to seal the victory for the Panthers.
Mikael Samuelsson and John Madden scored for the Panthers, who have won four straight and extended their Southeast Division lead over the Washington Capitals to five points. Theodore made 24 saves.
"Tonight was emotional," Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen said. "We were playing against a desperate hockey team and to get the win in a shootout, something that hasn't been our specialty this year, gives us a good feeling."
Tyler Ennis and Derek Roy scored for the Sabres, who have lost two straight, but moved to within two points of eighth-place Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Sabres struck first just 1:15 into the game after Stafford jumped on a loose disc in the neutral zone and gained the offensive blue line on the left wing. He moved down to the goal line before sending a centering pass right to the tape of Ennis, who tapped it home to give Buffalo the lead.
Florida tied the game with a power-play tally with just 2:45 showing on the first period clock after Samuelsson took a pass from Tomas Fleischmann and fired a rising wrist shot over the right shoulder of Miller.
The Panthers then grabbed the lead just 38 seconds later when Ed Jovanovski sent a stretch pass right up the gut to Madden, who came flying through the neutral zone and beat Miller through the five-hole from the left circle.
Buffalo tied the game at two with a power-play tally at 9:41 of the second frame after Jason Pominville let a booming slap shot go from the high slot that was kicked out by Theodore, but the rebound came right to the stick of Roy, who lifted a backhander past the Florida netminder.
Theodore improved to 4-0-1 in his last five games...Panthers forward Kris Versteeg also returned to action after missing the last nine games with a lower-body injury...Buffalo went 1-for-3 on the man advantage, while the Panthers converted 1-of-2 power play opportunities...Florida visits Philadelphia on Tuesday, while the Sabres will play in Tampa Bay on Monday.
03/18 00:07:53 ET