J.P. Dumont and Jason Pominville had a goal and assist each, and Jiri Novotny scored his first career goal for the Sabres. Derek Roy and Maxim Afinogenov had two assists for Buffalo, which improved to 8-0-1 in its last nine games, including a 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal on Thursday.
Chris Gratton and Jonathan Sim had a goal and assist each and Mike Van Ryn also scored for the Panthers, who were seeking their first season-series sweep of Buffalo after winning their first three meetings. Florida continues to struggle on the road, entering the game with seven road wins, the fourth fewest in the NHL.
Buffalo rallied with three straight goals after squandering a 2-0 lead.
Vanek put the Sabres ahead for good in the final minute of the second period, taking advantage of a delayed penalty after Afinogenov was tripped inside the Panthers’ zone. While lying face down, Afinogenov swept the puck to Vanek, who snapped a shot beating Roberto Luongo inside the near left post.
Vanek’s goal came after Gratton and Sim tied the game scoring goals 6 minutes apart. Gratton and Sim each extended their point streaks to four games. Gratton has four goals and six assists during that stretch, while Sim has six goals and two assists.
Vanek then put Buffalo ahead 4-2 with a great individual effort five minutes into the third period. After Sim whiffed in his attempt to bat in a bouncing puck over fallen goalie Ryan Miller, Vanek led a rush up the right wing. Beating Panthers defender Lukas Krajicek around the Florida net, Vanek wrapped it in behind a diving Luongo.
Dumont produced the most creative goal in opening the scoring late in the first period, batting in Ales Kotalik’s flip pass out of the air and bouncing it past Luongo’s outstretched blocker.
The Sabres avoided squandering a two-goal lead for the first time this season. Buffalo improved to 23-0 when leading by two goals, and is one of only three teams—Carolina (28-0) and San Jose (19-0)—to not blow a two-goal lead this season.
After giving up short-handed goals in consecutive games, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff changed his first power-play unit, putting two defensemen—instead of a forward and defenseman—at the point. Buffalo is tied with Washington in allowing a league-high 12 short-handed goals. … Panthers defensemen Kwiatkowski and Jay Bouwmeester each played in their 200th career game. … Novotny’s goal came in his sixth career game, in the lineup filling in after Jochen Hecht sprained his right knee Thursday. … Sabres’ Taylor Pyatt bloodied the nose of Florida’s Steve Montador during a fight in the third period.