BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jason Pominville scored his team-leading 24th goal and the Sabres inched closer to clinching the Northeast Division title with a 6-2 victory over the Panthers on Wednesday.
Raffi Torres had three assists in his first game back after missing six because of a hand injury, and Ryan Miller made 13 saves for his 39th victory, one short of matching a career high. The injury-depleted Sabres also got production from their role players; defenseman Henrik Tallinder, fourth-liner Adam Mair, and rookies Tim Kennedy, Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis also scored.
Buffalo won for the seventh time in eight games to move seven points ahead of second-place Ottawa in the division with 11 days left in the regular season.
Michael Frolik and Jeff Taffe scored for Florida, which is all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
The Panthers extended their winless string to four (0-3-1) and looked like a team with little to play for. After Taffe opened the scoring less than two minutes in, Florida gave up four straight goals and was eventually outshot 41-15, including 20-2 in the second period.
The Sabres were playing without two top-line forwards. Center Tim Connolly (foot) missed his third game, and left wing Thomas Vanek (lower body) missed his second game. With his goal, Pominville moved one ahead of Vanek for the team lead.
Sabres defenseman and rookie of the year candidate Tyler Myers earned his rookie-leading 35th assist.
Pominville tied it in the first from behind the goal line by banking a shot in off Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun's skate after Vokun stopped Tallinder's snap shot. Kennedy then scored the go-ahead goal to cap a three-on-two rush with 1:51 left in the frame by roofing a shot into the top left corner.
Gerbe scored a power-play goal, snapping a shot through a crowd in front, to make it 3-1 at the 9:31 of the second period before the Panthers registered their first shot on goal of the frame.
After Frolik cut the lead to 4-2 early in the third period, Ennis and Tallinder responded to seal the victory by scoring 33 seconds apart to make it 6-2 with just under 12 minutes left.
Game highlights: Eric Staal scored 2:55 into the third period and Cam Ward made 34 saves to lead the Hurricanes to a 2-1 victory over the Canadiens. Ward won his second straight start after missing 17 games because of a back injury. Carey Price stopped 25 shots for Montreal, which has gone on a 1-3-2 skid in the wake of its season-high six-game winning streak. The Canadiens are in a three-way tie for sixth in the East with Philadelphia and Boston with 82 points, two points ahead of ninth-place Atlanta.
First Period—1, Florida, Taffe 1 (MacIntyre, McCabe), 1:51. 2, Buffalo, Pominville 24 (Tallinder, Hecht), 9:22. 3, Buffalo, Kennedy 10 (D.Roy, Montador), 18:09. Penalties—Buffalo bench, served by Ennis (too many men), 10:31; Tallinder, Buf (holding), 15:29.
Second Period—4, Buffalo, Gerbe 2 (Torres, Myers), 9:31 (pp). 5, Buffalo, Mair 6 (Ellis, Torres), 12:38. Penalties—Oreskovich, Fla (holding), 9:07.
Third Period—6, Florida, Frolik 19 (Horton, Weiss), 1:26. 7, Buffalo, Ennis 2, 7:32. 8, Buffalo, Tallinder 4 (Torres, Ellis), 8:05. Penalties—Garrison, Fla (cross-checking), 9:31. Shots on Goal—Florida 10-2-3—15. Buffalo 10-20-11—41. Power-play opportunities—Florida 0 of 2; Buffalo 1 of 2. Goalies—Florida, Vokoun 23-27-11 (41 shots-35 saves). Buffalo, Miller 39-16-8 (15-13). A—18,690 (18,690).
First Period—1, Montreal, Bergeron 11 (Gomez, Gionta), 8:04 (pp). Penalties—Kostopoulos, Car (goaltender interference), 5:58; Harrison, Car (hooking), 7:18.
Second Period—2, Carolina, Sutter 20 (LaRose, Jokinen), 3:44. Penalties—O'Byrne, Mon (tripping), 10:08; Staal, Car (roughing), 15:06; Markov, Mon (roughing), 15:06.
Third Period—3, Carolina, Staal 24 (Cole, Whitney), 2:55. Penalties—Cammalleri, Mon (boarding), :38; Cole, Car (hooking), 6:04. Shots on Goal—Carolina 2-8-17—27. Montreal 12-13-10—35. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 0 of 2; Montreal 1 of 3. Goalies—Carolina, Ward 16-21-5 (35 shots-34 saves). Montreal, Price 13-20-5 (27-25). A—21,273 (21,273).