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Gerbe ends scoring drought as Sabres defeat Panthers in shootout

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Maybe the Buffalo Sabres' family members will start making every road trip from now on.

With many of the players' parents in attendance, the Sabres completed a perfect Florida trip, beating the Panthers, 4-3, in a shootout Thursday night at the BB&T Center.

One of the Sabres' heroes was center Nathan Gerbe, who snapped out of a 16-game scoring slump by netting two first-period goals.

"Gerbs scored two phenomenal goals," teammate Steve Ott said. "That was something we needed. We have to get scoring from somewhere else other than (Cody Hodgson's line)."

The shootout started when Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau lost control of the puck without getting a shot off on Ryan Miller. Buffalo's Thomas Vanek then converted his opportunity to make it 1-0.

Florida's Peter Mueller tried to tie the shootout but was robbed by Miller's glove save, and Jason Pominville ended it by beating Jose Theodore with a low shot.

Asked what this Florida swing -- which included a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday -- did for Buffalo's confidence, Pominville flashed a smile.

"I think we need our parents to stick with us (on road trips)," he joked. "Honestly, it's huge to win a couple in a row. We have to get on a roll."

The Sabres, who have yet to put together a three-game win streak this season, have now won two in a row for the third time. They entered Thursday in last place in the Eastern Conference but moved past Washington and tied Florida with the win.

Miller finished with 43 saves, including 34 after a shaky first period. He improved his record this season to 8-10.

The Sabres, who had gone four straight games without getting three goals, scored that many in the first period. But they gave up a 3-2 lead on a goal by Brian Campbell with just 1:26 left in regulation.

With the win, Buffalo improved to 5-6 on the road, which is better than its 3-6-1 mark at home.

Florida is now 3-5-3 at home and had to lift its goalie for the second straight game. On Tuesday, Theodore was out after allowing four goals in two periods. Thursday, Scott Clemmensen was pulled after letting three get past him in the first period.

The Panthers also concluded their three-game homestand with a 1-2 record.

Meanwhile, the Panthers lost defenseman Mike Weaver to a lower-body injury in the first period. He did not return but no announcement was made about his long-term prognosis.

Gerbe opened the scoring with 6:30 elapsed in the first. He came streaking down the right side, stopped suddenly, faked a shot and then finally fired a wrister past Clemmensen.

"I want to score goals, but I still go into every game with a worker's mentality," said Gerbe, wearing fake fur in the locker room, symbolic of the night's hero. "My speed the past 10 to 12 games has been good. I feel like I'm getting my legs, getting chances. Hopefully I can keep it rolling and keep scoring."

With 11 minutes gone in the first, the Sabres got a power-play goal, taking advantage of a hooking penalty on Panthers rookie Drew Shore.

Buffalo's Tyler Ennis cashed in with his seventh goal of the season, skating in alone from the right slot.

Shore, though, earned redemption with his own power-play goal, putting the Panthers on the board with 14:24 gone in an active first period. Dmitry Kulikov's hard slapshot caromed off the boards out in front to Campbell, and Shore cleaned up with his second goal of the season.

The Panthers tied the score, 2-2, less than a minute later on a great hustle play by Marcel Goc, who swept in behind the net to retrieve the puck and eventually worked his way out in front for the goal.

Gerbe then chased Clemmensen with his goal at 16:46 of the first period.

Despite the loss, Campbell was upbeat about the Panthers' standing in the Southeast Division, where they trail co-leaders Carolina and Winnipeg by just four points.

"There are a lot of divisional games ahead," he said. "It's going to be important to keep getting points."

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was asked how he felt about picking up the one point.

"We probably feel like our fans do ... you just leave the rink with a little bad taste in your mouth," he said. "But I think you look at tempo, pace and the way the game played out. We're not dis-satisfied with how we played the game.

"You don't end up with two points, and that's unfortunate. (But I think one point is) a sign we're heading in the right direction."

NOTES: After attending his grandmother's funeral in Toronto and missing Tuesday's win over the Penguins, Panthers' top-line center Stephen Weiss returned to the lineup. With Weiss back, Scott Timmons was returned to Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio. ... Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, who has not played since Feb. 17 due to an upper-body injury, was one of three Buffalo scratches. The others were defenseman T.J. Brennan and winger Marcus Foligno. ... The Panthers' two healthy scratches were winger Alex Kovalev and defenseman Colby Robak. ... Panthers' defenseman Filip Kuba, who missed two games due to an upper-body injury, returned to the lineup Thursday. ... Injured Panthers forwards Kris Versteeg (upper body) and Scottie Upshall (ankle) practiced Wednesday and are close to returning. ... Entering Thursday, the Sabres had several slumping forwards, most notably Jochen Hecht (no goals in 20 games). ... Up next, the Panthers hit the road to play Carolina on Saturday. Carolina then plays at the Panthers on Sunday to complete the home and home. ... The Sabres go home to host New Jersey on Saturday.
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