In his last game, Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller earned a tie for the league lead with his fifth shutout. On Wednesday, however, the Lightning prevented the Sabres net minder from standing alone at the top.
Tampa Bay, winners of five out of eight, scored three times against Miller while climbing out of a 3-0 hole to open the game. Down by two goals in the final period, the Lightning pressured the opposing goaltender with 13 shots while Buffalo managed just five on the Bolts’ Mike Smith. Smith made his seventh consecutive start in net, stopping 30 shots.
Martin St. Louis and Victor Hedman scored twice in the first period within 1:22 of each other to cut an early Sabres lead to one, but the Lightning’s valiant comeback effort fell just short as Buffalo defeated the Bolts 5-3 en route to its fifth consecutive victory. The stretch is Buffalo’s longest winning streak since a six-game stint in December 2007.
St. Louis extended his point streak to eight games, as well as his success against Buffalo in which the Lightning winger has tallied eight goals and as many assists in 14 contests against the Sabres.
Tampa Bay also received a goal from Vincent Lecavalier. The Lightning captain has 10 points in his last eight.
Teammate Alex Tanguay appeared in his 700th career game on Wednesday in his first season with the Lightning, who have picked up 11 points while posting a 5-2-1 record in their last eight games.
Buffalo set a club record with three goals in just over two minutes, receiving marks from Tyler Myers, Jochen Hecht and Clarke MacArthur to open the first period.
Myers lit the lamp 23 seconds in with a slap shot off a draw from the right circle that rang the underside of the crossbar for a 1-0 advantage.
Hecht extended the lead with a tip-in from the top of the slot at 1:11 and MacArthur snapped a 10-game scoreless skid with his 11th goal of the season.
“Three goals in two minutes…we needed to bounce back quick,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “They got some easy goals there, but I think we calmed down, started focusing and started to play our game.”
The Lightning surged back as St. Louis cut the deficit to two with a one-timer from below the left hash marks at 12:03, beating the Sabres net minder off a feed from Steven Stamkos.
Hedman added an additional tally with a wrist shot just over a minute later to bring the Bolts within one as he finished a 2-on-1 odd man rush.
Mike Lundin would later add an assist in the contest, as Tampa Bay’s defensemen have contributed 14 points in their last eight games.
Drew Stafford restored Buffalo’s two-goal cushion in the opening minute of the second period with a power play goal that snapped Tampa Bay’s four-game streak in which it did not allow a goal with the man advantage. Prior to Wednesday’s matchup with the Sabres, the Lightning had killed 15 consecutive chances.
After Lecavalier brought the score to 4-3 by converting a rebound chance inside the crease, Jason Pominville extended the Sabres’ lead once again with his 11th of the season. A video review was issued after the puck appeared to have been kicked into the net by the Buffalo forward’s skate, but the officials’ initial call was upheld.
Mattias Ohlund’s slap shot ricocheted off the post late in the game, which would have brought the Lightning to within one, but the Sabres clung to their 5-3 lead until the final horn sounded.
“We had a tough start to the beginning of the game, but we came back and obviously it was up and down after that,” Lecavalier said. “We gave them a lot of space in our zone, but Smitty [Mike Smith] made some big saves. He stopped some prime-time chances.”
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