Trips to the state of Florida have always seemed to bring out the best in the Buffalo Sabres.
This one is shaping up to be no different.
The Northeast Division-leading Sabres look to build on their highest-scoring game in two months and continue their dominance over the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center when they meet Saturday night.
Buffalo (37-22-10) has a five-point lead over second-place Ottawa in the Northeast and is within five of Pittsburgh for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, but its struggles on the road have been a bit concerning.
The Sabres dropped the first two contests of a five-game road trip and were 1-7-3 away from Buffalo since Jan. 19 heading into Thursday's game at Tampa Bay. The St. Pete Times Forum has historically been kind to the Sabres, though, and that trend continued.
Jason Pominville scored three goals in a 6-2 victory as Buffalo had its highest-scoring game since a 7-2 win over Phoenix on Jan. 18.
The Sabres won for the ninth time in 10 games in Tampa, and have enjoyed similar success at the BankAtlantic Center. Buffalo won at Florida 5-2 on Oct. 21, and has won five of six there.
Ryan Miller has been instrumental to this success. He stopped 41 shots against the Panthers in October, and is 4-1-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average and one shutout in Florida since 2007-08.
Miller was solid between the pipes Thursday, bouncing back nicely from the shortest start of his career. Miller, who was pulled after giving up three goals on five shots in the first 6 minutes of Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Atlanta, stopped 23 shots against the Lightning.
"He's been there all year," said Pominville, whose only other hat trick came in a 10-1 win over Los Angeles on Jan. 14, 2006. "That's what you expect out of Ryan. He's an elite goalie and every night he gives us a chance to win."
Pominville has five goals and four assists during a season-best five-game point streak, and had a goal against Florida in October.
The Panthers (28-30-11), seven points back of eighth-place Boston in the East, are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to red-hot Phoenix on Thursday, its third defeat in four games.
Cory Stillman and Stephen Weiss each had a goal and an assist and Florida was in position to win until Radim Vrbata scored a fluke goal with 59.7 seconds left in the third period. Vrbata dumped the puck down ice and it took an odd bounce just before reaching the crease and hopped over Tomas Vokoun's glove and into the net.
"For us it seems, Murphy's Law, whatever can go wrong is going wrong," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said.
Florida, which is 2-4-2 at home since Feb. 1, is struggling with its penalty kill. The Panthers have allowed at least one power-play goal in each of their last five games, killing 6 of 12 penalties.
It could be tough to stop this streak, as the Sabres have scored a power-play goal in each of their last five games in Florida.