Secondary scoring, big saves and a strong defensive effort in the final 20 minutes was enough to help the Lightning stave off the Buffalo Sabres for a 2-1 win at the HSBC Center.
The game was just the third this season in which Stamkos was held off the score sheet, snapping a seven-game point streak, along with that of St. Louis, who was held scoreless for just the fourth time this season.
“Tonight was a night where we really needed this win,” goaltender Mike Smith said. “We wanted to finish this road trip off on a good note and this was one of those games where you have to battle hard.”
Teddy Purcell and Adam Hall each had goals for the Lightning, winners of three straight, and Smith added 29 saves in his second consecutive appearance after stopping 19 shots in relief of Dan Ellis on Thursday in Philadelphia.
The victory also marked Tampa Bay’s first three-game road win streak since Jan. 8, 2008, when it won six in a row away from home.
Thomas Vanek scored for the Sabres, who have alternated wins and losses in their last four contests and were without starting net minder Ryan Miller. Patrick Lalime earned the nod and made 20 saves in his first start since Nov. 5 against Montreal.
Miller, the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner, didn't dress after being named a late scratch because of an undisclosed lower-body injury after already missing five straight games earlier in the year.
A turnover in the neutral zone by defenseman Mattias Ohlund led to the game’s first goal.
After absorbing a big hit from Ohlund, Vanek rose to his feet and skated down the right boards to intercept a pass before ripping a slap shot inside the near post.
Purcell tied it with a deflection with under two minutes remaining in the period after tipping a pass through the slot from Randy Jones into the top right corner. Malone got the play started with a poke check at the blue line to gain possession of the puck and re-enter the Buffalo zone.
“Bugsy Malone made a good play and stepped up there,” Purcell said. “We were able to force a turnover and a good thing happened from it.”
A goal by Tim Connolly to open the second period was overturned after video review, as Jason Pominville clenched his fist to deliver a hand pass to his Sabres teammate, who bat the puck out of the air and past Smith five minutes in.
Hall made his count, however, with a backhand into an open net midway through the second. He intercepted Lalime’s clearing attempted and collected his own rebound from inside the goalmouth before lifting a shot that made it 2-1 at 11:26.
“Coming in to this game we wanted to make sure we got out to a good start,” Purcell said. “It was unfortunate they got ahead on a turnover and capitalized on the first shot, but we did a good job of battling back and believing in ourselves and sticking to the system.”
Tampa Bay, who came in with the league’s fourth-best penalty killing unit at over 88 percent, eliminated two Buffalo power plays and blocked 11 shots.
“Hats off to the guys tonight,” Smith added. “Everyone played well. It wasn’t just one guy, but a complete team effort tonight.”
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