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2 posts from February 3, 2013

February 03, 2013

PANTHERS WIN: Cats Get First Road Win of 2013, Drop Host Sabres 4-3


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BUFFALO -- Brian Campbell was put in charge of organizing the Panthers' Super Bowl watch party on Sunday night since he spent eight seasons playing for the Sabres.

Beforehand, he said he wanted the team to really be able to enjoy Sunday night by taking care of business that afternoon.

Campbell stuck to his word as his power play goal midway through the third gave the Panthers their first lead of the day as Florida held on for a 4-3 win over the struggling Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Florida had trailed 3-1 midway through the second before mounting a second comeback in as many games.

"You wait for power play chances and we took advantage of it,'' said Campbell, who held the team's shindig in downtown Buffalo.

"We battled. We're coming together as a team and starting to have more faith in each other to be able to come back. We didn't have that earlier. You're starting to see our team develop. With some pieces back, we can start doing what we did last year.''

Said coach Kevin Dineen: "It's a much better Super Bowl party now than it was 10 minutes into the second period.''

The Panthers have now won two straight as Sunday's win avoided the first 0-4 road start in franchise history. The Panthers trailed 3-1 early in the second period and it looked like they were headed down that path.

Then, like in the third period Thursday, the Panthers started putting the puck in the back of the net. First it was enforcer George Parros who drilled a nice pass from Stephen Weiss past Ryan Miller at 10:21 of the second to get things rolling.

Florida tied the score at 3 with 54 seconds left in the second when Peter Mueller scored for the fourth consecutive game by shoveling the puck past Miller after the puck deflected off him from a Drew Shore shot.

"It wasn't on me as [Mike] Weaver made a great play up the middle and Shore did all the work,'' Mueller said. "I was just fortunate it was on my stick at the time. I'm happy for the goal, but more happy for the win. We're building character. You have to build from something.''

The Panthers took advantage of their first power play of the day midway through the third when Campbell rifled a shot from the left side that beat Miller top shelf.

The sellout crowd in Buffalo had seen enough as boos rained down on the Sabres. Sunday's home loss to the Panthers came off a 6-1 loss in Montreal on Saturday afternoon as the Sabres dropped to 3-5-1.

Coach Lindy Ruff, the Sabres' coach since leaving the Panthers bench in 1997, could really start feeling some external pressure.

Of course, that's not the Panthers problem. Florida, now 3-5-0, moved closer to the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

"We didn't want to wait this long to get one on the road,'' Dineen said. "That was a little snapshot of our team, but you're seeing how we need to play to have success. We got down by a couple and responded.''

The Sabres had a lot of jump early on and took a 1-0 lead 2:46 into the game when Thomas Vanek banged in a rebound past Jose Theodore. Florida countered a few minutes later as Jarred Smithson won a faceoff in the Buffalo zone and fed it to Shawn Matthias who ripped it through.

Buffalo made it 2-1 later in the first then scored early in the third when Alexander Sulzer zipped one from beyond the left circle -- a puck Theodore should have stopped.

Theodore was excellent from that point forward, however, although the Sabres looked tired and didn't challenge much in the third. Again, not the Panthers problem.

"Jose has been the guy since I've been the coach here,'' Dineen said. "There's a trust level between on both sides.''

PANTHERS SUNDAY NOTEBOOK: George Parros Comes up Big in Florida's 4-3 Win in Buffalo ... Weiss Comes Back, Sheltered from HNIC Rumors ... Jack Skille Sits


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BUFFALO -- The big guy with the big mustache and the big reputation didn't like sitting. The not fighting part? Somewhat surprisingly, he was OK with that.

On Sunday, George Parros -- a healthy scratch Thursday -- got into his first fight as a member of the Panthers. Seven minutes later. Parros scored his first goal in a Florida sweater.

Had he picked up an assist he would have completed his first Gordie Howe hat trick with Florida -- a fight, goal and a helper.

"Anytime you can contribute it feels good,'' said Parros, who signed with the Panthers in July after six seasons in Anaheim. "I'll take them whenever I can, but it's good to score in a close game and really help out. When you can get your shifts in early, it's a different feeling on the ice. I got my feet moving.''

Parros admits that big enforcers like himself are on less NHL teams.

On Sunday, Parros and Buffalo's 6-foot-8 John Scott rumbled with Parros finding it hard to get leverage. Parros finally got Scott tied up near the glass and delivered a few blows.

"Not many teams have guys like us anymore,'' Parros said. "The fact it took this long doesn't surprise me. I'm not looking to fight all the time anyway. If it's right for the game, I'll do it.''

-- The Panthers had their top line intact for the first time this season as Stephen Weiss came back after missing four games with a sore groin. Kris Versteeg missed the first five games of the season with a similar malady.

"I felt alright being the first game in a while,'' Weiss said. "I can't complain. I have to stay in the lineup, get into a rhythm. You feel a little weird but I have to be patient and keep it simple.''

Weiss, who missed four games, was the topic of conversation during Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast with one commentators saying Weiss was on the trade block.

The Panthers have denied this although as a pending free agent, this talk will continue through the trade deadline. Weiss said none of his family members nor friends informed him of the Hockey Night talk.

"This is the first I've heard of it,'' he said. "This is surprising because my buddies all watch the Leafs games. My parents too. Maybe they just wanted to keep my head clear.''

-- Florida is sticking around snowy Buffalo and is scheduled to hold an afternoon practice at the Sabres' arena on Monday. The Panthers will then fly to Winnipeg where they will be hosted by the Jets on Tuesday.

-- With Weiss back in the lineup, Florida still has an extra forward and Jack Skille sat on Sunday.

PANTHERS SUNDAY NOTEBOOK: George Parros Comes up Big in Florida's 4-3 Win in Buffalo ... Weiss Comes Back, Sheltered from HNIC Rumors ... Jack Skille Sits