Not even a rare loss at home was enough to knock the Tampa Bay Lightning out of first place in the Southeast Division.
Steven Stamkos had the only goal of the night for the Lightning, which received 19 saves from Mathieu Garon, although in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Lightning, which are set to take on a four-game road trip through the Northeast beginning Thursday, have now lost two straight.
“I thought we had a lot of good chances,” Stamkos said. “I thought we got a lot of shots again, but their goalie played well.”
Fortunately for Tampa Bay, Carolina also lost in regulation on Tuesday night to the Washington Capitals, however the Winnipeg Jets emerged with a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers, creating a three-way tie for first place in the Southeast Division standings.
Each of the three clubs at the top of the division display identical totals of 19 points, although the Hurricanes have played one fewer game.
Cody Hodgson recorded a goal and an assist for the Sabres, and Tyler Myers added what would be the game-winner just 52 seconds into the final period to help Buffalo snap a four-game losing skid.
Thomas Vanek added a pair of assists for the Sabres as well, and Ryan Miller turned aside 30 of 31 shots in the win.
“It was great,” said Buffalo interim head coach Ron Rolston, who earned his first career NHL victory behind the bench. “The battle level and the competitive nature we had tonight was outstanding.”
Tuesday’s contest seemed a bit out of the ordinary for Tampa Bay, which with 33 goals on the season in the final period alone, is the best team late in games in the league.
But after Stamkos’ league-leading 14th goal of the year put the Lightning out to a 1-0 lead just 1:24 following the game’s opening puck drop, Tampa Bay failed to find the back of the net again for the remainder of the game, as it was shutout in each of the final two frames.
“We battled hard and I had my guys in front of me,” Miller said. “We kept them away from setting up the way they wanted to.”
Myers snapped the 1-1 tie early on in the third to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead.
The Sabres defenseman scored from the top of the circle following a turnover inside the blue line, which sent the defense scrambling.
Prior to that, Hodgson pulled Buffalo even at 10:02 of the first when he tucked the puck behind the post to tie it at 1-1.
Miller chipped in at key times as well, making several quality saves during three short-handed situations, including a 5-on-3, during the second. He also had a point-blank stop on Stamkos in the third.
Stamkos’ tally increased his season-high goal-scoring streak to six games, which is also the longest by any NHL player this season.
He also had a game-high eight shots on goal, included in a number of quality scoring chances for the Lightning throughout the night.
“Our number of chances can’t be any higher,” Boucher added. “The quality of scoring chances we got were very good.”
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