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When he was dealt to San Jose at the trade deadline in 2008, an emotional Brian Campbell asked Sabres fans not to boo him when he returned to Buffalo. Two teams and a Stanley Cup championship later, Campbell could have a good chuckle over the reaction of fans in First Niagara Center on Sunday.

The boos rained down — partly for the home team but mostly for the visitor — as Campbell scored the game-winning goal on a third-period power play. There were even more when his name was announced as the scorer on the power-play tally that gave the Florida Panthers a 4-3 win.

“When they boo you, it means they miss you,” said a smiling Campbell. “I try to take it as a positive and that’s the case. They’re great fans here. I love coming back here. I still have friends here and to score a game-winner is great. A lot of good times here, good memories.”

Campbell, 33, has been gone nearly five years and since then he’s won a Stanley Cup with Chicago and even got married last summer.

Florida hit town Sunday riddled by injuries, last in the Eastern Conference and 0-3 on the road. Coming back from a 3-1 deficit was badly needed.

“We’re starting to get our confidence again,” Campbell said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of faith and confidence and now we’re starting to see our team develop. With a bunch of pieces coming back in the mix, it looks like we can do what we did last year.”

Campbell’s goal at 9:27 of the third period was his fourth — equaling his total in 82 games last year and tying him with Montreal’s Andrei Markov for the NHL lead among defensemen.

“I was just trying to get in there to see if there was something that came loose,” he said. “It came to me with a little space. You’ve got to put those away.”

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Sabres winger and NHL scoring leader Thomas Vanek entered the game just 57th in the league in ice time among forwards at 19 minutes, 13 seconds, and played 19:15 on Sunday. But with the Sabres desperate for goals, the stat sheet showed Marcus Foligno played a career-high 21:46 and Jochen Hecht played a season-high 21:08.

Coach Lindy Ruff had no real explanation when asked about the discrepancy.

On Saturday in Montreal, Ruff shut down Vanek’s line for a while “because their numbers were way up after two periods,” the coach said. “ … I called Thomas once tonight and he didn’t want to go because he thought he’d be up with his line next. I was trying to double-shift him in another case. They’ve played a lot of minutes in a lot of situations.”

Ruff’s comments came after Sabres players were available to the media so Vanek was unavailable for comment.

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Panthers tough guy George Parros scored his first goal with Florida and first since Feb. 10, 2012, for Anaheim. In his normal role, after getting hit with a couple of early rights, Parros rebounded in a second-period fight with Buffalo behemoth John Scott. Parros finished with a big left that buckled the 6-foot-8 Scott.

“You just can’t get leverage. He’s a beast,” Parros said. “He’s impossible to get inside on.”

At one point, Parros appeared to have a choke hold on Scott’s jersey at the neck to try to keep Scott at arm’s length.

“I was laughing on the bench,” joked Campbell. “It was a little UFC out there.”

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Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera (ankle) did not play after getting struck by a shot Saturday in Montreal and T.J. Brennan dressed in his place. Sekera was seen walking without a limp in a hallway near the locker room. He said he expected the injury to be short term.

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The Sabres have given up 33 goals in nine games, tied with Washington for the most in the league.

They have given up 17 goals in second periods — the most of any NHL team in any period. They have given up a combined 28 in the second and third periods, five more than anyone else.

Ryan Miller has given up four goals in four straight games, ballooning his goals-against average to 3.11 — 30th in the NHL — and dropping his save percentage to .906.

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With his first-period assist, Jason Pominville tied Mike Foligno for 10th-most assists in Sabres history (264) and Alexander Mogilny for 12th-most points (444). … Cody Hodgson played his 100th career game and tied his career high of three points set Thursday in Boston.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com