SABRES 4, PANTHERS 3 (SO)
The Panthers goaltending situation hasn't exactly been a Carousel of Progress lately, although plenty of things have been spinning around.
Thursday, it was Jose Theodore making saves on all 15 shots seen in relief of starter Scott Clemmensen -- roles were reversed two nights before -- to help Florida pick up a point with a 4-3 shootout loss to Buffalo at BB&T Center.
Brian Campbell, who spend parts of eight seasons in Buffalo, zipped a 60-foot shot past Ryan Miller with 1:26 left in regulation to tie things and force overtime.
The Sabres won it in the shootout round by going 2-0 against Theodore; Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller both misfired for the Panthers as Florida is now 1-1 in the shootout and 1-5 in overtime this season.
"I've always had a long leash with my goalies,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "They understand the game and when to step it up. But that's not happening right now.''
The Panthers, winless in nine of the past 11, were on the verge of losing in regulation despite playing well for most of the game.
Florida took aim at Miller and dominated play in the third and overtime -- yet got just the one goal. And the one point.
"Look at the game, the tempo, the pace,'' Dineen said, "and we're not dissatisfied with the way we played the game. Just that we didn't get the two points. If we play that way, keep going in that direction, it's the right one.''
Still, the Panthers -- despite all their problems -- are four points back of first place Carolina in the Southeast Division with home-and-home games against the Hurricanes this weekend.
The Panthers' next five games are against divisional opponents and could help create some separation in the muddled Southeast.
"It's frustrating not to get the two points,'' Campbell said. "We need the points and this could be the biggest weekend of the season. We need to come out with a couple of wins.''
Tuesday, Theodore came into the game before the first intermission after Clemmensen gave up three goals on 10 shots in 16:46. The Panthers, then down 3-2 after rallying from a 2-0 deficit, played a scoreless second before that strong third.
Theodore, arguably Florida's MVP last season, still can right what has been to this point a shaky season. Clemmensen started Thursday after his masterful relief appearance against Pittsburgh Tuesday; expect Theodore to get the call Saturday in Raleigh.
Nathan Gerbe got things started for Buffalo by throwing up a floater that found its way past Clemmensen. A few minutes later, Tyler Ennis scored on a power play.
Then it was Florida's turn. Drew Shore got a power play goal at 14:24 of the first by knocking a loose puck off the boards past Ryan Miller. Less than a minute later, Marcel Goc dove for a loose puck by the cage, corraled it and wraped it around Miller to tie the score.
Only a few moments later, Gerbe got hit second after losing his feet yet finding the top corner of the net. Theodore was quickly off his stool by the door to the bench and got ready to take over.
"We played well enough and deserved to win,'' Shore said. "We bring that effort, things are going to start to turn around.''
Center Stephen Weiss was back with the Panthers on Thursday after missing a few days to be with his family after the passing of his grandmother, Elizabeth Weiss.
Stephen said his grandmother passed away before Sunday's game -- one in which he was benched in the third period -- against the Bruins. He said he didn't know until afterward.
“She meant a lot to all our family,'' Weiss said. "She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. Very warm, always ready to give you advice. I just always remember going there Christmas Eve and spending time with them was always fun. We’ll miss her for sure.”
As far as his struggles go -- Weiss has one goal in 15 games -- he said if he plays better he doesn't have to worry about being demoted to the fourth line or benched as was the case Sunday.
“It’s never fun to be sat and the easy answer is to play better. That’s the bottom line,'' he said. "It’s not the first time I’ve been benched.''
-- Defenseman Filip Kuba returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with an undisclosed upper body injury.
Florida played a defenseman down for much of the game, however, as Mike Weaver left in the first period with a lower body injury that could see him miss substantial time.
"[Weaver] is going to be out an extended amount of time,'' Dineen said. "It's going to be quite a while by the looks of it.''