“Any time you get a goal early it really lifts the team, especially on the road,” Nieuwendyk said. “Tonight was a good start for us.”
The Panthers improved to 7-2-1 in their last 10 games while also upping their sagging road record to 4-14-3. Not a bad way to open a five-game road trip.
“It’s huge,” said goaltender Roberto Luongo, who stopped 28 shots. “Guys are aware that this is probably the most important stretch for our team this year. … We definitely wanted to get off to a good start tonight and have a good week.”
Henrik Tallinder scored for Buffalo, which had a five-game home winning streak snapped and lost for only the fifth time in 23 games (18-3-2). Of the Sabres’ 12 losses this season, three have come against the Panthers, including two at Florida.
The Sabres went 0-for-7 with the man advantage, failing to score despite enjoying four consecutive power-play opportunities in the final 12 minutes. That included a 37-second stretch in which they enjoyed a two-man advantage.
“Our execution and passing wasn’t very good,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had a couple of guys on a couple of shifts who couldn’t handle the puck, and it disrupted the whole power play.”
It was a rare power outage for the Sabres, who failed to register a power-play goal for only the ninth time this season.
“We just can’t sit back and rely on the power play,” forward Tim Connolly said. “We have to be better 5-on-5 and we have to be more disciplined earlier in the game.”
The Panthers would prefer to be more disciplined late in the game, considering all the penalties they took down the stretch. But credit Luongo for preserving the victory.
“He’s our best penalty killer,” Roberts said. “We were fortunate to get the win.”
The only shot that beat him came from a bad angle to the left of the net, when Tallinder caught Luongo leaning off the post.
Roberts extended his points streak to five games, and has three goals and six assists over that stretch. With the assist, Jokinen extended his points streak to a career-high 10 games (six goals and 10 assists).
Connolly said the key to beating Florida is a strong start.
“Luongo is a tough goalie to play against when he has the lead,” he said. “He’s got all the confidence in the world.”
Panthers defenseman Mike Van Ryn limped off the ice and did not return late in the third period with what the team described as an injured quadriceps.
Panthers RW Juraj Kolnik returned after missing five games with a knee injury. … Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere was placed on the injured list. He’s scheduled to have surgery in the next few days to repair a sports hernia and is expected to be out until April. … With the game-opening goal, Nieuwendyk had scored the Panthers’ last three after scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over Montreal on Friday.