Santorelli's game-winner lifts Panthers past Sabres in shootout

Christina De Nicola, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Mike Santorelli's goal on the fourth attempt of an overtime shootout gave the Panthers a 5-4 victory over the Sabres Thursday night in front of 17,044 at the BB&T Center.
Jason Pominville beat Jacob Markstrom to open the shootout, but Markstrom rejected Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Steve Ott in order. Ryan Miller denied Peter Mueller, but Jonathan Huberdeau's shot crossed the line to tie it at 1 upon further review. Shawn Matthias couldn't put in the game-winner as the third shooter.
"I wasn't sure that's why I pointed that it was in," said Huberdeau, who leads all rookies with 13 goals. "I was really happy I could tie the shootout at that point and it's good that Santorelli made a great move and we won that game. We came back two times in this game, so it's great to get those two points."
Florida (10-19-6), which improved to 4-10-1 in March, erased one-goal deficits twice in the third period.
Calder Trophy candidate Huberdeau knotted the score at 4 two minutes after Buffalo took the lead with his first goal in 10 games, on the power play on a one-timer crossed in front of the net from Mueller and Brian Campbell.
"We expect more from everybody in that room," said Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston, who was unhappy with the penalties his team took. "Whether you're a veteran or rookie it's about being a team."
Marcus Foligno's tip-in power-play goal with 8:27 remaining gave the Sabres a 4-3 lead.
His fifth of the season came with 19 seconds left in the man advantage. Tyler Myers set up Jordan Leopold's slap shot, which sailed through traffic.
Until that goal, the Sabres, which entered the game with the worst power-play (12.5%) in the league, failed to convert their first three chances. The Panthers have the worst penalty kill at 74 percent.
"We had a chance to hunker down in the third and we couldn't do it," said Miller, whose team entered Thursday's game five points back from a playoff spot. "There's 28 (more points) on the table. Go get them."
Down 2-0 just 43 seconds into the second, Buffalo proceeded to score three unanswered goals and take a 3-2 lead in the final 19:27 of the period.
Stafford's tip-in on Robyn Regehr's slap shot -- his fifth of the season -- arrived with 55.4 seconds left in the second. Christian Ehrhoff also recorded an assist on the play.
Matthias evened it at 3 at 5:23 in the third after exiting the penalty box a little under three minutes earlier.
Mueller, who gave chase with Matthias in the Buffalo zone, helped create a turnover and took a shot that rebounded to Matthias for his second goal of the night.
Buffalo trimmed a 2-0 deficit 1:36 into the second on Nathan Gerbe's fourth of the season.
Stafford skated down center ice and fed Tyler Ennis, who dropped a pass to Gerbe in front of the blue line. His slap shot took a wacky hop about a foot in front of Markstrom before bouncing over his glove.
Markstrom had allowed one goal or less in three of his past four starts, surrendering six goals in his last four starts.
The Sabres recorded the equalizer on Andrej Sekera's second of the year at 14:56. After Dmitry Kulikov lost control of the puck as he skated past the net, Sekera's slap shot deflected off a Florida player's stick and in. Ott received an assist.
Florida took a 1-0 lead 8:28 into the first period following a lost face-off in the Buffalo zone as Mueller forced a turnover behind the net.
Huberdeau gathered it and found Tyson Strachan at the blue line. His shot rebounded past a Buffalo defenseman to Matthias, who beat Miller's stick side.
Florida entered Thursday 33-5-13 when scoring the first goal of a game, dating back to last season.
Tomas Fleischmann's power-play goal 43 seconds into the second extended Florida's lead to 2-0, the team's first man-advantage score in four games.
In a battle behind the net between Campbell and two Buffalo defensemen, he sent the loose puck to Tomas Kopecky, who did a wraparound and passed to an open Fleischmann.
His eighth of the season traveled to the right side of the goal. Fleischmann now has five points in his past seven games.
"We let up for a bit, but we definitely came together in the third period and battled extremely hard," said Matthias, who has 11 points in his past 15 games and 12 goals on the season. "It looked pretty bad for a bit, but we came back and played our hearts out and it's a good win."
NOTES: Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski will undergo season-ending hip surgery on April 5 after playing in just six games this year. General manager Dale Tallon expects him to be ready for next season. Jovanovski is one of eight Florida players on injured reserve. ... Defenseman Brian Campbell played 391 games for the Sabres from 1998-2008. Panthers assistant coach Craig Ramsay played his entire NHL career in Buffalo. ... Sabres center Steve Ott appeared in his 600th NHL game, joining Robyn Regehr, Jochen Hecht and Jordan Leopold as the fourth current Buffalo player to achieve that feat. ... Left winger Thomas Vanek, who left Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury, was scratched. Defenseman Andrej Sekera, who missed five games with an upper-body injury, made his return. ... Up next, the Sabres play the Capitals Saturday night at the First Niagara Center to begin a two-game homestand. ... Florida hosts the Devils on Sunday night before traveling to Tampa Bay Tuesday.

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