The Buffalo Sabres finally have something positive to build on under interim coach Ron Rolston.
Coming off their first victory with Rolston behind the bench, the visiting Sabres try to avoid a third straight defeat to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
After being outscored 7-1 in the first two games following longtime coach Lindy Ruff's firing last Wednesday, Buffalo (7-12-1) tightened up defensively and received a timely goal from Tyler Myers early in the third period to win 2-1 at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
The victory snapped a four-game slide and offers something positive moving forward for a Sabres team that's fighting to get out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
"Just the battle level and the competitive nature we had (Tuesday) was outstanding," said Rolston, who was coaching Buffalo's AHL affiliate when he was tabbed to replace Ruff. "You could just feel it on the bench, the guys, how dialed in they were. I'm really happy for our team.
"We've seen a lot of really good signs, and we just needed something to keep us moving in the right direction."
Ryan Miller made 30 saves for the Sabres, who still rank among the worst in the league with 64 goals allowed. Though Buffalo has scored just four times in its last four games - going 0 for 13 on the power play in that stretch - the latest effort could be a sign of progress.
"I think there's been some hard work over the course of the season," said Miller, whose 2.83 goals-against average is his worst in eight seasons. "The battle was there, but the smarts are coming back around."
Buffalo, which is 2-6-0 since last winning consecutive games Feb. 7 and 9, hopes it has built enough momentum to avenge a 4-3 home loss to Florida (6-9-4) on Feb. 3.
Tomas Kopecky had a pair of assists for the Panthers in that contest, and added another while recording his first career hat trick in Tuesday's 6-4 home win over Pittsburgh. Florida blew a three-goal lead against the Penguins, but scored twice in the third period to avoid a third consecutive defeat.
"We're a desperate team and we needed it," former Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell told the Panthers' official website. "We can fold up and not compete but there's a lot of fight in this team. We have a ways to go but we're working on getting better."
Campbell, who scored the game-winning goal on the power play at Buffalo earlier this month, recorded a goal and two assists Tuesday, all with the man advantage. The Panthers went 4 of 7 on the power play against Pittsburgh after going 1 for 24 while losing seven of their previous eight.
"It's been a couple of weeks here that we haven't been able to generate much on the power play, so it was good for our group to go out there," coach Kevin Dineen said. "I just think confidence, success, breeds success."
Kopecky, who has never scored more than 15 goals in a season, has recorded six of his eight over the last six games.
Buffalo's Thomas Vanek ended a three-game point drought with two assists Tuesday, and had three points in the first meeting with the Panthers. Vanek ranks among the NHL leaders with 12 goals but has one in his last eight games.
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