Vanek, Pominville Spoil Panthers’ Return

SUNRISE, FL -The Florida Panthers were dealt a rude welcome home from their two game Southeast Division road trip, as they fell to the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 at the BankAtlantic Center’s Lexus Rink Thursday night. The Panthers were shutout for the second straight game, and haven’t scored a goal since Jason Garrison scored the Panthers’ seventh goal with 3:13 remaining in their 7-4 victory over Tampa Bay Monday night.

“I just don’t think we tried hard enough,” coach Kevin Dineen said.

The first period was pretty evenly matched, as the Panthers and Sabres cruised to a scoreless tie. 13 minutes into the period, a hard shot by the Panthers ricocheted to the neutral zone. Jason Pominville picked up the puck and skated ahead of his defenseman. He was stoned by José Théodore.

“He played well enough to win. [Our goaltending has] been the strength of us,”
Dineen said of Théodore’s effort.

Théodore made 35 saves in the losing effort, allowing two goals in the second and a power-play goal in the third.

Two and a half minutes into the second, the Panthers failed on a clearing attempt. Tyler Myers caught the puck with his stick at the blue line, passing it to Pominville in the right circle. His shot tipped off Thomas Vanek’s stick and the post, into the back of the net. It was Vanek’s fifth goal of the season. He was not done.

17 minutes in the period, Pominville got his goal, scoring on a tip in after Ville Leino intercepted the puck near the Panthers goal. The pass went right through the crease and Pominville beat Théodore for the goal. It was his second on the year.

Down 2-0 with under three minutes to go, Garrison took a boarding penalty, and the Sabres took advantage. Vanek took a cross-ice pass in the right wing circle, and went top shelf on Théodore to put the icing on the cake. The red-hot Vanek now has six goals on the young season.

The Panthers are not ready to hit the panic button quite yet, but the team will have to figure things out before Saturday night when they take on the New York Islanders, who come into the game equal to the Panthers in the win column.

“It’s a group effort,” forward Scottie Upshall said. “There’s a lot of guys, including myself, who can bring a lot more, chip in and do the little things right.”

CAT BYTES:

  • Bracken Kearns, at age 30, made his NHL debut tonight. He was held off the scoresheet. More on that to come.
  • At 5-1-0, Buffalo is off to its best start since the 2006-07 season, where they started 10-0-0. They won the Presidents Cup that season.
  • A crowd of 14,811 attended the contest, with tarps covering parts of 16 upper deck sections.

THREE STARS:

  1. Thomas Vanek (BUF) 2 G
  2. Ryan Miller (BUF) Shutout W, 22 saves
  3. Jason Pominville (BUF) 1 G 2 A

Justin Cohen is the Florida Panthers beat reporter for InsideHockey.com He can be reached at jcohen@insidehockey.com or on his Twitter @IHPanthers.

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