Sean Bergenheim celebrated his birthday in a big way.
The Tampa Bay Lightning forward, who turned 27 years old Tuesday night, scored two goals in a valiant effort, albeit in a 7-4 loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres.
Vincent Lecavalier added the other two goals for the Lightning, who have alternated wins and losses in their last four games after stringing together a stretch of five consecutive victories.
“It was definitely a tough one,” Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said. “A tough one to swallow.”
Jordan Leopold scored the game-tying goal at 4:26 to open scoring in the third, the first of five unanswered Buffalo goals in a span of 9:01 that erased a 3-1 deficit.
During the play it appeared Buffalo forward Drew Stafford lost his balance skating near the crease and tripped Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson to the ice, leaving Leopold wide open to convert his 11th of the season, which was upheld upon video review.
“For me, when I fell backwards, was I asking questions? Yeah, of course,” Roloson said. “But for me, it’s over. Whether it’s the right call or whether it’s the wrong call, there is not much I can do about it now. It’s part of the game.”
Roloson finished the night with 21 saves. Tampa Bay moved to 12-4-0 in its last 16 games at home.
Stafford went on to record his fifth career hat trick, Thomas Vanek added two goals and Tim Connolly also scored for the Sabres, winners in three of the last four.
Ryan Miller made 30 saves.
“We let it slip away,” Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher said. “It’s not just that it slipped away. It’s the opponent doing the right things also. There is another team on the other side and they were fighting for their lives.”
Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman raced for a loose puck in the slot and helped put the Lightning up by one when he found Lecavalier on the side of the goal for an easy tap-in at 4:58, which made it 2-1.
Vanek cut the deficit to one nearly seven minutes after Bergenheim gave the Lightning a two-goal lead with his second of the night, marking his first multi-goal game since recording a hat trick on Mar. 7, 2009 against the New Jersey Devils.
After Leopold drew the Sabres even, Connolly and Vanek’s second of the night just 47 seconds apart put Buffalo up 5-3. The Sabres are 11-4-1 in their last 16 games.
“I think after 40 minutes we knew that we had to have a big third period,” Sabres center Tyler Ennis said. “That’s what we did.”
Stafford added two more 2:26 later to make it 7-3 before Lecavalier cashed in on the power play at 16:19 to end the scoring.
Steve Downie served 12 consecutive penalty minutes in the first five minutes of the third period, which led to Leopold’s tying goal and a Buffalo scoring spree that resulted in four goals within a span of 3:13.
“Some weird things started happening,” Boucher said. “Smaby got a weird injury, then Malone, who has been playing outstanding, he made that third goal happen. Then Downie gets hurt and he’s rattled, and it just started to be a weird game.”
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