It was for these special moments that Panthers captain Ed Jovanovski put himself through eight months of painstaking rehabilitation from major hip surgery to make it back to play a young man's game he still has a passion for.

Moments like scoring a big goal to lead the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the hapless Buffalo Sabres in First Niagara Center Tuesday night for their first two-game winning streak since reeling off five straight from Dec. 10-19th.

Moments like being awarded the goofy, hero hat by teammates - some young enough to be his sons - in a raucous post-game locker room celebrating a 2-1 road trip and a rare sweep of back-to-backs.

"I love the game. I love to compete,'' said Jovanovski, 37, who notched a game-high plus-3 in his 1,100th career NHL game and ninth since last April's surgery, but first back-to-back set.

"I'm getting a little up there but for me to continue to be in the dressing room and doing something I love, I'm privileged. … I take every day as a win.''

"First and foremost it was a huge two points for our team. We got to find a way to get back into [the playoff race] and tonight was an added bonus.''

The 15th-place Panthers made their stunning 5-1 rout of the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins Monday more relevant, even if this victory came against the NHL-worst Sabres, who have dropped four straight.

"Learning how to win, battling, seeing guys sacrifice and do what they had to do is good for our team,'' Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "[Jovanovski's] just a warrior, incredible, the big goal, on the bench between periods he's the one saying all the things that need to be said.

"He makes sure the guys don't relax. His leadership is outstanding. What he's gone through the last year to get here is pretty incredible.''

Just 52 seconds after Sean Bergenheim's deflection of Tom Gilbert's long shot tied it 2-2 at 18:04 of the first, Jovanovski sidestepped a defender to uncork his trademark slapper right past U.S. Olympic goalie Ryan Miller to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead after one.

Jovanovski, who also had an assist, scored his first goal since April 5, 2012. He's believed to be the first NHL player to make it back from a hip resurfacing operation.