The Panthers played the Sabres for the first time ever on December 2nd, 1993. John Vanbiesbrouck stopped 33 shots altogether, getting the Cats to overtime against Dominik Hasek behind a Jesse Belanger goal. Gord Murphy scored 23 seconds into overtime for the 2-1 win. Donald Audette lit the lamp for Buffalo. * Box Score
Florida came out on top of the Sabres the second time they met, on January 30th just two months later, 3-2. Belanger scored twice, Scott Mellanby scored once, and Keith Brown pitched in with two assists as Vanbiesbrouck turned aside 37 shots. Audette and Jason Dawe provided the offense for Buffalo, and Hasek made 23 saves in the loss. * Box Score
Two more games that seasons between the two clubs did not yield a third win for the Panthers, who ended up splitting the inaugural series, 2-2-0 on their way to a 33-34-17 record. They finished just one point out of the postseason, behind the 36-36-12 New York Islanders.
After half of the 1994-95 season was cancelled due to a work stoppage, the Panthers played and lost to Buffalo three times, going 20-22-6 overall. Florida only scored once in the three games, giving up 10 to the Sabres.
In 1995-96, on their way to a 41-31-10 record and their first ever postseason, the Panthers split four contests with Buffalo, right down the middle at 2-2-0. On November 11th, Bill Lindsay (two goals, one assist), Stu Barnes (one goal, one assist) and Jody Hull (two assists) racked up multiple points in front of 22 Vanbiesbrouck saves in a 4-1 victory. Hasek allowed all four goals on 24 shots. Randy Burridge lit the lamp for the Sabres. * Box Score
On January 27th, Florida would see six different players score one goal each in a 6-3 triumph in Miami Arena. Stu Barnes, Belanger, Johan Garpenlov, Hull, Ed Jovanovski, and Dave Lowry all scored, while Lindsay tabbed three dimes and Mark Fitzpatrick made 23 saves. Hasek had a terrible time of it, allowing five of the Florida goals on only 13 shots. Burridge, Dawe and Michael Peca scored for the Sabres. Paul Laus and Rob Ray squared off for the fourth time overall, in what would eventually culminate in nine different fights spread over nine seasons. * Box Score
Later on, the Panthers dropped their next two games to Buffalo, each by a score of 6-1. They eventually won their only Eastern Conference Championship.
Florida went 2-1-1 against Buffalo in 1996-97, the first time they finished with a winning record against the Sabres. After dropping the first matchup of the season to them, 3-2 in overtime on November 11th, the Panthers earned a 4-3 win on the 26th of that same month. That contest would see Ray Sheppard earn a hat trick, scoring three goals on five shots, while Vanbiesbrouck stopped 20 shots for the win. Robert Svehla scored a goal with an assist, while Matthew Barnaby, Curtis Brown, and Dixon Ward earned the glory for the Sabres. * Box Score
It was one of those nights where everything you throw at the net goes in - Sheppard
After a 1-1 tie on February 6th, the Cats earned their second win in the season series against the Sabres on March 22nd. Vanbiesbrouck only faced 18 shots in total, allowing goals from Miroslav Satan and Jay McKee in a 3-2 Panthers win. Steve Shields allowed three goals on 32 shots for the Sabres, allowing markers to Radek Dvorak, Mellanby and Sheppard. * Box Score
The Panthers ended the regular season at 35-28-19, in third place in the Atlantic Division with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
In 1997-98, Florida was outscored 17-10 in head-to-head matchups against the Sabres, posting a 1-3-0 overall record. Their only win came on November 6th, 4-2 thanks to 28 saves from Fitzpatrick. Lindsay, Chris Wells, David Nemirovsky, and Rob Niedermayer provided the Florida offense. Hasek allowed three goals on 24 shots in total, as one of Florida's four markers were of the empty net variety. * Box Score
Florida wasn't great that year, posting a 24-43-15 record overall. They closed their first five seasons with an aggregate 7-11-1 record. Tune in tonight as the Panthers try to open the New Year on a high note.