BUFFALO – The Panthers were a little road weary Friday night after playing their second game in as many nights and sixth of their past seven away from the friendly confines of western Broward County.
The old Panthers would have taken the point in the standings they received after losing 2-1 to the Sabres in overtime with relish, headed on their merry way with smiles as wide as Buffalo's Peace Bridge.
Well, obviously, these aren't the Panthers most have become accustomed to.
“Losing in overtime has quite a bit of sting to it. There's quite a bit of disappointment,'' coach Kevin Dineen said moments after Jason Pominville won it for Buffalo on a breakaway 2:19 into the extra frame.
“We're proud of the fact we're playing stingy on defense, but we still have some things to clean up. There's disappointment in the room. There's a half-full look at the glass, we walked out with a point. But we're beyond that as a team.''
The point gained in the standings pulled Florida into a tie with Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference standings. Although the Panthers are statistically still in second, only the Flyers and Florida can claim 37 points in the east. Philadelphia has one more win than the Panthers and two fewer games played.
Still, for a team that finished last in the 15 team division just a few months ago, that's called progress.
“It's too early to be looking at the standings, but it credits our hard work and how far we've come as a team,'' Jason Garrison said. His ninth goal of the season leads all NHL defenseman and tied the score in the second.
“This is definitely better than the alternative. We have a good mood, atmosphere here. We're all super-competitive and everyone is down right now. But we're coming back to work and finish this road trip strong.''
Neither the Sabres nor Panthers will enter Friday's game into a selection of NHL classic games as both teams struggled to create offensive chances. Buffalo took a 1-0 lead with 2:10 left in the first when Derek Roy broke free and scored. Florida countered with 4:12 left in the second as the Sabres had two players in the penalty box. The Panthers took advantage as Garrison whipped a shot from 35 feet out.
The score stayed 1-1 until Pominville got loose after former Panther Jordan Leopold got the puck deep in the Florida zone and sent it out. Pominville raced toward the net and shot one between Scott Clemmensen's legs to end it.
The Panthers once again failed to win a fourth consecutive game; Florida hasn't won more than three straight since Jacques Martin's final year behind the bench in 2008.