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Late goal sends Panthers past Sabres 3-2

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Nick Bjugstad scored late in the second period and rookie Aaron Ekblad had three assists to lift the Florida Panthers over the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Saturday night.

Tomas Kopecky and Brad Boyes also scored for the Panthers Roberto Luongo made 26 saves.

Brian Gionta and Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo and Michal Neuvirth stopped 34 shots.

The Panthers are 4-1-1 in their past five games and have won five in a row over Buffalo going back to last season.

The Sabres have lost their past two games, after winning six of their previous seven.

Bjugstad gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead when a shot by Ekblad was blocked and he grabbed the loose puck in front and poked it in at 19:43 of the second. Bjugstad leads the Panthers with 11 goals.

Trailing 2-1, the Sabres tied it at 2 on Gionta’s goal. Mike Weber shot from above the circle and Gionta tipped the puck past Luongo with 4:06 left in the second.

The Panthers took a 2-1 lead when Kopecky tipped in a shot by Ekblad at 12:55 of the second.

The Sabres tied the score at 1 in the second on the goal by Stafford. Cody Hodgson passed from the center to Stafford in the left circle.

Stafford, who missed the previous three games with a lower-body injury, one-timed the puck past Luongo at 11:02. The goal was the first Luongo has given up against the Sabres in a span of 214 minutes and 21 seconds, including 91 shots, over 3-plus games dating back to when Luongo played for the Vancouver Canucks.

Florida took a 1-0 lead on Boyes’ goal. Boyes fired from the right circle and the puck went over Neuvirth’s glove at 13:05 of the first.

Notes: Florida’s Bjugstad, who has three multi-goal games in his past 11, leads the team with 11 goals and 17 points. … Neuvirth made his first start since Nov. 18.

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