BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Thomas Vanek wasn’t about to let his teammates down a second time.
After failing on a penalty shot in the second period, Vanek stormed back to score two goals, including the winner 19 seconds into overtime, and the Buffalo Sabres erased another two-goal deficit to win 5-4 over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
The Sabres have come back to win six times after falling behind by two goals this season.
“Any time you have a chance to do something for your team, and you miss the opportunity, you’re extra motivated to go out there and make up for it,” Vanek said. “I was able to do that.”
Florida forward Gary Roberts’ holding penalty with less than 2 minutes left in regulation carried into overtime, where the Sabres had a 4-on-3 advantage. Ales Kotalik ripped a slap shot from the top of the left circle that was partially blocked by Panthers defenseman Mike Van Ryn, and Vanek picked up the loose puck in front and slid it past Florida goalie Alex Auld.
Following the play, Roberts was assessed an additional two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, as well as a 10-minute misconduct and a gross misconduct. He declined to talk about the infractions after the game.
The goal was retribution for Vanek after Auld foiled his penalty-shot attempt 1:37 into the second period.
“He’s such a big goalie, I just hit him on the top of the shoulder,” said Vanek, who was awarded the penalty shot after being hooked at the Panthers blue line by Van Ryn.
“I was trying to wait and be patient,” Auld said. “He tried to go high and I got my elbow on it.”
The Sabres played for the first time without three regulars, including starting goaltender Ryan Miller, who is day-to-day with a lower body muscle strain. Forward Maxim Afinogenov (upper body) and defenseman Henrik Tallinder (broken left forearm) also missed the game.
Martin Biron started in place of Miller and made 15 saves in his second straight start, and fourth of the season. He won a franchise-record 13 consecutive starts last year when Miller was out for more than a month with a broken thumb.
“It’s one of those games as a goalie that you put the win in the bank and you just regroup,” Biron said. “I’m fortunate enough that the team in front of me kept going at it.”
The Panthers opened the scoring when Roberts scored his third goal on Florida’s first shot 5 minutes into the game.
Salei made it 2-0 11 seconds after Vanek missed on the penalty shot. Coming out of the penalty box, Salei took Jay Bouwmeester’s long pass and wristed a shot past Biron for his second goal.
Vanek solved Auld for his ninth goal to make it 2-1 over a minute later, and Campbell tied it 2:13 later with his second goal.
“Down 2-0, we started to roll,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
Gaustad’s first goal gave Buffalo its first lead at 3:14 of the third, and Kotalik made it 4-2 50 seconds later with his fifth goal.
Nieuwendyk closed the gap to 4-3 midway through the third with his fourth, and Montador tied it with 3:21 left in regulation.
“We battled back hard,” said Florida captain Olli Jokinen, who picked up two assists. “This is a tough building to play in. Not too many teams get points here.”
Auld made 21 saves in losing his sixth straight start.
“It’s frustrating not to get the win when we came back like that and took it to overtime,” he said.
The Sabres look to extend their league-record eight-game road winning streak to start the season Saturday in Philadelphia. They then travel to Carolina to play the Hurricanes on Monday. … Ruff said that Miller will go on the short, two-game road trip. … Sabres D Toni Lydman missed the entire third period with a migraine headache. … Florida has lost seven of its last nine. … Panthers center Chris Gratton missed the game to be with his wife, who gave birth Thursday to the couple’s second child.