The Florida Panthers finally found some offense, firing 47 shots at the Buffalo Sabres and goaltender Michal Neuvirth in a huge 5-3 win. Jaromir Jagr finished with three shots on goal and a -1 rating in his Panther debut, logging 17:09 TOI. The future Hall-of-Famer made a big defensive play, coming back to help break up a 2-on-0 Buffalo rush.
Even the addition of Jagr wasn't enough to snap the Cats out of their usual first period sleepwalking ways. Cody Hodgson opened the scoring by beating Roberto Luongo just 2:57 into the game. Zach Bogosian and Nicolas Deslauriers drew the helpers on Hodgson's fourth of the year. The Sabres added to their lead a few minutes later when the Panthers allowed defenseman Andrej Meszaros the time and space to put a softie by Luongo, with the assists going to Johan Larsson and Hodgson. Florida got it going, somewhat, finishing the frame with 10-6 advantage in shots on goal, but failed to score on three power-play opportunities.
The second period turned into the Brandon Pirri show. Pirri, just back from a stint on injured reserve, scored two power-play goals in a 1:23 span to even the game. The first came at the 12:01 mark with the Cats enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage, thanks to penalties on Larsson and Bogosian. Brian Campbell set up the blast with Jussi Jokinen drawing the second assist. Campbell and Boyes collected the helpers on Pirri's second hammer-job on the subsequent 5-on-4. The two goals gave Pirri eleven on the season. Nick Bjugstad put the Cats ahead with 1:29 left in the stanza, with his twenty-second, after taking a nifty feed from Jokinen. Boyes picked up his second point of the matinee with the secondary helper. Florida outshot Buffalo by a huge 19-4 margin in the period.
In the third, the Panthers kept stabbing at the Sabres with their steely knifes, but they just couldn't kill the beast (yet). Torrey Mitchell scored on just the third Buffalo shot of the frame at 12:54, from Matt Moulson and Nikita Zadorov, to tie things up. The Cats fourth line came to the rescue 68 seconds later with Scottie Upshall striking the decisive blow. Upshall ripped one by Neuvirth to bag his seventh goal, capping off the sharp passing of linemates Derek MacKenzie and Shawn Thornton. MacKenzie would ice the game with an empty-netter with 17 seconds remaining to complete the scoring. Boyes and Jokinen would each pick up their third assist of the afternoon on MacKenzie's fourth of the campaign. The Panthers outshot Buffalo 18-3 in the final frame and 47-13 overall.
The win moved Florida back within two points of the Boston Bruins, who play tonight. The Cats get right back at it tomorrow with a late afternoon tilt against cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning.