The Florida Panthers overcame a two-goal deficit, but couldn't hold on to the lead as Buffalo tied the game in the third period before taking a 4-3 decision on Nikita Zadorov's overtime tally. The goal was Zadorov's first of the season and came just 29 seconds into the extra session. Taking the tilt past regulation allowed the Cats to keep pace with the Boston Bruins for the Eastern Conference's final wild card spot.
After playing in Detroit the night before, the weary Panthers spotted the surging Sabres a two-goal first period advantage. Cody Hodgson, who was scratched in Buffalo's last game against Calgary, beat Al Montoya at the 2:06 mark on the Sabres' third shot of the game and Marcus Foligno scored later in the frame on a wrist shot through the goalie's five-hole from Nicolas Deslauriers and Drew Stafford.
Sean Bergenheim began the Panthers comeback with an early second period goal. Brad Boyes stole the puck from defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen behind the net and passed in front to Bergenheim. Bergenheim's attempted to pass back to Boyes, but the puck hit Zadorov's skate and got behind Jhonas Enroth.
The Panthers evened the game a few minutes later when Jimmy Hayes and Bergenheim played give and go deep in the Buffalo zone. Hayes ended the play by lifting home Bergy's goalmouth feed. Dmitry Kulikov drew the second helper on Hayes' seventh goal of the campaign.
Florida took the lead 57 seconds into the third period courtesy of a little thievery from center Dave Bolland. Bolland stole the puck from Torrey Mitchell at the Sabres' blue line and found Jussi Jokinen with a nice cross-ice pass which Jokinen buried for his third goal.
The Sabres' bounced back to tie the affair at the 8:27 mark. Tyler Myers found Brian Gionta with a long stretch pass and the veteran forward quickly ripped the puck past an unready Montoya.
Buffalo wasted little time in finishing off the Panthers in the extra session. Tyler Ennis did some nice work in the Cats' zone before finding Zadorov open for the winning slapper.
The Panthers (12-8-8) ended the tough three-road trip with a respectable 1-1-1 record, but with a third period lead, had to feel like they let an important point slip away in this one.
Odds & Sods
- Al Montoya finished the game with 28 saves and saw his record drop to 2-2-2. Not the best of outings for the veteran backup.
- Buffalo winger Patrick Kaleta collected his first point of the season with an assist on Cody Hodgson's opening tally.
- Florida captain Willie Mitchell is -7 in the Cats' 7 December games. Maybe the veteran defender needs a night off here and there? Just a thought, as he and partner Dmitry Kulikov have been the pairing on the ice for a lot of goals against lately.
- Nikita Zadorov's overtime goal was his first ever game-winner and just the second goal of his NHL career.
- Nick Bjugstad had his four-game scoring streak snapped. Florida's leading scorer had a tough night, registering just two shots and going a poor 6 of 21 in the faceoff circle. Bjugstad was also on the ice for Buffalo's overtime goal.
- Jhonas Enroth stopped 25 shots to pick up his third straight win. Enroth raised his record 9-10-1.
- The teams played a pretty clean game with the zebras only calling three minors, all in the second period. Neither team could convert on the power play.
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