BUFFALO, New York — Shut out one night. On fire the next.
It took Reilly Smith and the Florida Panthers a little under 21 minutes to score four times en route to a 7-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, and put behind their offensive struggles following a 3-0 loss at Detroit.
"You get that first goal, and it's huge," Smith said. "I think it was a great start for our team and a good bounce-back game after last night."
Smith opened the scoring 7:40 in with a one-timer from the right circle that banked in off the crossbar. He added an assist before closing the scoring with an empty-netter
The Atlantic Division-leading Panthers snapped an 0-1-1 skid in which they scored just twice, and totaled seven goals for the second time this season. They won despite playing on consecutive nights, and minus top-line center Aleksander Barkov, who was sidelined by an upper-body injury sustained in the second period against the Red Wings.
"We needed to have a bounce-back game," added Jussi Jokinen, who had a goal and two assists. "We didn't create enough (against Detroit), and we wanted to change that tonight."
The Panthers took control 22 seconds into the second period, when defenseman Alex Petrovic scored on a bouncing shot to make it 4-0 on just 12 shots and chase Sabres starter Robin Lehner.
After Buffalo rookie Sam Reinhart scored a pair of power-play goals, the Panthers stemmed the Sabres' momentum by scoring the next two before the second period was over. Brandon Pirri deflected in Brian Campbell's point shot, and Jaromir Jagr snapped a shot that beat backup Chad Johnson with 2:07 left.
Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots to improve to 14-2-2 in his past 18 starts. Luongo appeared in his 906th career game, tying Glenn Hall for sixth on the NHL goalies list.
The Panthers improved to 8-0-2 in their past 10 games at Buffalo, where they haven't lost in regulation since a 4-2 loss on March 25, 2011.
Buffalo can't seem to be able to beat anyone at home. The Sabres are 1-7-2 in their past 10 home games, and 9-16-3 overall.
The Sabres blamed this loss on too many miscues, defensive breakdowns and poor goaltending.
"We gave them the opportunities," coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's how we played, and that's disappointing. We battled and we've played hard in a lot of games recently. And it wasn't there for us tonight."
Lehner was caught out of position by failing to protect the short side on two of the four goals he allowed.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian was to blame on Florida's third goal, scored by Jokinen with 25 seconds left in the first period. Bogosian was beaten to the puck at the end boards by Vincent Trocheck, who then set up a tic-tac-toe passing play in front.
The Sabres were booed off the ice to end the first period, and heard more boos when Petrovic scored to make it 4-0.
Evander Kane scored a goal for Buffalo, and also provided the Sabres a lift by winning three fights with Petrovic. They squared off twice in the second period, and once again in the third before being ejected. Kane knocked Petrovic to the ice in all three fights.
"I thought I'd try to get the crowd back into it a bit and kind of set the tone moving forward," Kane said.
After the second fight, Kane drew a big cheer when he raised two fingers on one hand and none in the other and mouthed the words "two-and-oh" to indicate his record against Petrovic.
The trouble was, the Sabres had dug too big of a hole.
"I just think we have to have a tougher mentality at home," Kane said. "I think that's what we've been lacking here a little bit."
NOTES: Jagr scored his 739th career goal, two shy of matching Brett Hull for third on the NHL list. ... The Panthers recalled forward Garrett Wilson from AHL Portland, and also placed D Erik Gudbranson (upper body) on injured reserve. ... Sabres C Zemgus Girgensons sat out after hurting his upper body in a 2-1 overtime loss at Boston on Saturday. ... With 32 wins through 54 games, the Panthers are off to their second-best start in franchise history according to STATS. Florida had 33 wins through 54 games in 1995-96.