Steve Downie did all he could to create some momentum and spark the Lightning to mount a comeback.
Downie, favoring an injured leg following Thursday’s 5-3 win at Boston, scored Tampa Bay’s lone goal in the second period, but it wasn’t enough to earn the Lightning their third straight win, while also putting Buffalo’s post-season aspirations on hold.
Derek Roy had three goals and Patrick Lalime made 22 saves for the Sabres, who clinched their first playoff berth since the 2006-07 season with a 7-1 victory at HSBC Arena.
“It’s definitely tough to get into the playoffs,” Roy said. “Every team is pretty much equal and the standings are really tight, but going out every night and being consistent and working hard, that’s what we’ve been thriving on all season.”
Jason Pominville recorded his 300th career point, adding a goal and two assists. The win also marked Lalime’s 200th career victory.
The Sabres, ranked third in the East with 92 points, failed to qualify for the post-season on Friday after losing its fifth straight to division rival Ottawa, but secured a spot with Saturday’s win, its fifth in the last six games.
Paul Gaustad opened scoring after Craig Rivet’s wrist shot from the blue line was deflected through traffic and sent past Antero Niittymaki for a 1-0 lead at 2:24.
Buffalo took advantage of a costly Lightning penalty midway through the first period after Vincent Lecavalier was given a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct penalty for spearing along the side boards.
Roy struck first from the right circle when he sent a wrist shot wide of the pad of Niittymaki for a 2-0 lead. Jochen Hecht then increased the advantage by one just 50 seconds later as he tipped in a slap shot at 8:52, prompting Tampa Bay net minder Mike Smith to relieve Niittymaki in goal.
“It was great to get out to a good start,” Roy added. “Our captain got us going, we got some traffic out in front, and then our power play helped us get pucks toward the net and make some plays.”
Pominville continued the scoring in the second period after he tipped in a pass from Henrik Tallinder at the right hash marks past Smith at 6:57.
“It was a great play by Tallinder there. I just kind of crept to the back post and tried to tip it in, so I have to give credit to him. He made a great pass,” Pominville said.
Roy corralled a loose puck in front of the crease and backhanded it into the net to put Buffalo up 5-0 before Adam Mair scored his fifth of the season. Roy later capped his fourth career hat trick in the third period on the power play with a slap shot from the high slot, ending his night with four points.
Tampa Bay got on the board in the final seconds of the middle frame when Downie blasted a slap shot from the right circle above the shoulder of Lalime that rattled the underside of the crossbar for his 21st of the year.
Despite the loss, Tampa Bay stands in 11th place in the East, just three spots out of the final positioning with 72 points.
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