Unfortunately, the defining moment of Buffalo’s 5-3 victory over Florida on Sunday was not Patrick Kaleta’s first career goal. Kaleta, who has provided much-needed energy to a team that had been wallowing through the month of January, was rewarded by notching his first marker on a night marred by Richard Zednik’s horrific injury.

But while the feisty winger found little opposition in tipping the puck past Panthers’ goalie Craig Anderson with just over four minutes gone in the second period and the Sabres trailing a goal, he had more trouble celebrating with a large contigent of friends and family that were on hand at HSBC Arena.

“I tried to jump into the glass,” the St. Francis High School product said. “But it stopped me.”

Kaleta’s goal, much like his play, gave the Sabres a lift when they needed it after the first intermission. Adam Mair snapped a shot toward Craig Anderson and Kaleta, who was alone just in front of the crease, tipped it through the Florida goalie’s legs.

Kaleta had played 21 career games prior to Sunday and had registered two assists. He didn’t have any points in 14 games this season.

“It was great work by my teammates out there,” Kaleta said. “I got firtunate that it went off my stick.”

Kaleta again had six hits on the night, including a whopper in which he ended up laying atop Florida defenseman Bryan Allen.

•••

Miller saw action in his eighth straight game, and things didn’t start smoothly. The first shot the netminder faced was a floater off the stick of Florida defenseman Branislav Mezei. As he typically does on shots from the point, Miller dropped into his butterfly, but couldn’t see the puck through a maze of players.

The puck went over his shoulder, marking the 30th time in 55 games this season that Buffalo gave up the game’s first goal. They’re 9-16-5 in those instances.

•••

An awkward shot to the neck of Florida’s Kamil Kreps in the third period forced the center to the ice. Play stopped as Kreps laid in the crease alongside Miller well after the play had headed up ice.

After taking a shot from a Buffalo defenseman, Kreps went head-first into Miller, wrenching his neck. Kreps is no stranger to most of the Sabres — he’s played parts of three seasons in Rochester as part of the teams’ dual affiliation with the Amerks.

Kreps did return later, and was on the ice when the Sabres scored their fourth goal.

•••

Jason Pominville extended his point streak to seven games when he buried a breakaway chance in the second period to give the Sabres a 2-1 edge.

Pominville started the play in his own end, tipping a puck that found Sabres defenseman Nolan Pratt. When Pratt tried a long pass that probably would have missed Pominville, Florida defenseman Ruslan Salei tipped it and Pominville raced in on Anderson. Pominville added an assist on what proved to be the game winner by Thomas Vanek.

During this streak, Pominville has notched four goals and seven assists.

Contact group sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.



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