As Mathieu Garon goes, so do the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bolts net minder made 36 saves of 39 shots to help Tampa Bay complete a home and home series sweep of the Buffalo Sabres following a 4-3 win on Tuesday night at the First Niagara Center.
Photos: Lightning at Sabres
Highlight: Vinny Sweeper
Highlight: Thompson Goal
Video: Malone Breakaway
Statistics: Game Summary
Statistics: Season Stats
Tickets: TBL vs. WPG 10/29
Making his third consecutive start in goal after registering his 20th career shutout on Saturday, Garon tightened up after allowing two goals on Buffalo’s first three shots, giving Tampa Bay a chance to erase an early two-goal deficit and win its third straight.
“He’s definitely a great goalie,” Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. “He’s making the big saves and it’s been tough to score on him lately. He’s really good to begin with, but now he’s getting his confidence back so that makes him even tougher to beat. Between him and Roloson, that’s a pretty good duo.”
Lecavalier cut the opening-period deficit to one at 13:03 after a pair of Buffalo goals just 35 seconds apart mired Tampa Bay in an early 2-0 deficit to start the game.
Brad Boyes, playing in his 500th consecutive game, doubled the Sabres lead at 2:31 after Thomas Vanek opened the scoring with a nifty backhand through the five hole of Garon. With Eric Brewer caught out of position along the boards, Vanek played the puck right around the Lightning defenseman to notch the game’s opening tally at 1:56.
“You have to create offense and you have to do it with speed,” Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think on Saturday night in their place we were playing too east-west, so tonight we wanted to change that.”
Despite the quick start, all was lost when the trio of Lightning forwards helped Tampa Bay score four unanswered goals to take what seemed like a commanding 4-2 lead in the game’s final minutes.
Buffalo, following a three-game win streak that was snapped in Tampa Bay on Saturday, has now lost two straight. The Sabres have surrendered leads in both of their losses at home this season.
Thompson’s goal in the final minute of the opening frame sparked the come-from-behind rally when his centering pass deflected off Christian Ehrhoff’s skate in front and past Ryan Miller to send a 2-2 tie into the first intermission.
Tampa Bay then took its first lead of the game at 4:42 of the second period after Matt Gilroy fired a shot from the left point that was redirected by Stamkos, giving the Lightning a 3-2 advantage.
A late goal by Nathan Gerbe restored the one-goal margin just 33 seconds after Malone made it 4-2 with what proved to be a crucial insurance goal at 18:37 of the third.
Garon, though, came up with a number of key saves in the game’s final 50 seconds despite a late flurry of Sabres scoring chances in Tampa Bay’s own defensive zone.
Miller finished the night with 19 saves for Buffalo.