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Matthew Tkachuk scores in return, Florida Panthers defeat Buffalo Sabres 3-2

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Matthew Tkachuk scored a goal and had an assist in his return from injury and the Florida Panthers defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Tkachuk gave Florida a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal with 4:24 to go in the first period and the team never relinquished it to win for the eighth time in nine games and move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the idle Boston Bruins. Both teams have 82 points.

He missed the team's previous game against the Washington Capitals with an upper-body injury sustained last Thursday in Carolina.

“You never like missing games,” Tkachuk said. “Nobody hated it more than me but it was probably the right thing. It really wasn't fully my call either, but in hindsight, I'm happy that they let me take that one off and it felt really good tonight.”

Sam Bennett and Brandon Montour also scored for the Panthers while Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves. Montour also picked up a pair of assists and has 10 points in his past five games.

Dylan Cozens and Tage Thompson scored for the Sabres while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 34 shots.

“I think against any team in this league, you're not going to get to the net easy,” Sabres captain Kyle Okposo said. “That's why you get rewarded when you get there, you have to pay a price to get there. I think, as a team, we can do a better job of doing that.”

The loss snapped Buffalo's season-long three-game winning streak and five-game road winning streak.

The Panthers extended their streak of games allowing two or fewer goals to 14.

“We try to focus on our game, it doesn't matter the opponent,” Bobrovsky said. “We will stick with the structure and guys deliver it. They work hard, they work smart and they are resilient.”

Florida star Sam Reinhart is now on an eight-game goal drought but remains second in the NHL in goals with 39.

UP NEXT

Sabres: Visit Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

Panthers: Host Montreal on Thursday night.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

Colby Guy, The Associated Press