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Sabres have night to forget Thibault gets little help as Panthers notch rare win in Buffalo

At least the Buffalo Sabres were in synch when it came time to assess the damage tab.

There was plenty of blunt talk after Friday's disjointed 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers in HSBC Arena, a game that was far worse than your garden-variety two-goal defeat.

Forwards caught up ice. Defensemen caught out of position. It made for a gruesome second period as the Sabres completely fell apart in their own end. They allowed the Panthers to pepper backup goaltender Jocelyn Thibault with 17 shots and score three goals in a five-minute span to take charge.

It was as ugly as those numbers sound.

"You can't really sugarcoat it. We weren't very good," said coach Lindy Ruff. "I thought we were just flat-out awful at times. They got us on the run a little bit and we didn't do a lot about it."

But they heard about it. A mostly disillusioned sellout crowd of 18,690 filled the building with boos as Buffalo fell back below .500 to 5-6-1 and remained in the Northeast Division cellar.

"You can't cut corners here: The second period was awful," said winger Jason Pominville. "We got dominated and we're not going to win games when we play that way. We try to play one-on-one hockey and turn the puck over. A few missed assignments in our own zone and the puck was in the back of our net. It happens quick."

It was the Sabres' second loss in two nights and was also their second straight at home. Buffalo's last appearance here was another stinker, the 3-0 loss Oct. 19 to Columbus.

Richard Zednik scored two straight goals for the Panthers, at 13:35 and 16:50 of the second period, to snap a 1-1 tie and put the visitors in charge. The boos really rained down when Florida captain Olli Jokinen potted another easy tip-in to Thibault's left at 18:37 that made it 4-1.

"It was embarrassing in a lot of senses," said defenseman Brian Campbell. "It was a big game coming back here to get above .500 after getting a point out on the road [in Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss at Boston]. It's frustrating.

"Assignments missed again, a few turnovers here and there. It's just something this team has to get going together on the same page."

Indeed, the Sabres often broke down when forwards released from the defensive zone too soon and left the back-liners as well as Thibault in tough spots. Every Florida goal was scored from in close and Thibault had no chance on any of them.

"It comes down to protect your own end first," Ruff said. "Don't cheat on the offensive side of it and don't start heading up ice when we don't have [the puck]."
It was the Panthers' first regulation win of the season in seven road games. It was also just the seventh Florida win in HSBC in 28 tries and the first since Jan. 1, 2006.

It was a rough night for Buffalo's top line of Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Maxim Afinogenov as they were on the ice for three of Florida's goals. Vanek got the Sabres close with a tip-in of a Roy shot on a power play with 3:23 left but that was mostly window dressing to the final score.

Jochen Hecht's backhander at 9:08 of the second period pulled Buffalo even at 1-1 but that was the only time the Sabres seemed to have some momentum.
Ruff shook up his lines in the third period. Vanek went with Tim Connolly and Pominville. Roy was with Drew Stafford and Hecht while Afinogenov was with Adam Mair and Daniel Paille.

"[Thursday] they might have been our best line," Ruff said of the Roy line. "There's no escaping they could have been better on those goals, all three of them. But it's a five-man unit. . . . They weren't the only line that played poorly."



Panthers 4

Sabres 2

Slap shots: Zednik scores two of Panthers' three second-period goals. . . . Hecht, Vanek score for Sabres. . . . Thibault loses in second start.

Fast fact: The Sabres have just two goals in their last six periods at home.

Next game: Monday at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. in Bell Centre.

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