Even with eight regulars out of the lineup, the Tampa Bay Lightning threw everything they had at Ryan Miller Monday night. It just wasn’t enough.
Bruno Gervais snapped a 12-game scoring drought and Dwayne Roloson made 20 saves in relief for the Lightning, which fell in a 7-3 defeat to the Buffalo Sabres at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Tampa Bay, playing without starting goaltender Mathieu Garon or captain Vincent Lecavalier, has lost six of its past seven games. It also got goals from Trevor Smith and Ryan Malone, but dropped to 12th in the Eastern Conference, just two points ahead of last-place Montreal.
“Our guys have been pushing so hard lately,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “We have call-ups from the American League, and I’m not going to ask these guys to score left and right. It’s all part of the learning experience.”
Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville each scored twice for the Sabres, while Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis collected two assists apiece.
Miller stopped 23 of 26 shots on the night to record his 26th win of the season.
“Basically every line got on the board for us,” Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said. “You look at the score sheet and almost everybody is on it. It’s nice to have.”
Drew Stafford, Corey Tropp and Brad Boyes had the other Buffalo goals.
The Sabres are 4-1-2 over their last seven games and remain two points behind Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Buffalo chased Lightning net minder Dustin Tokarski midway through the second period after he allowed four goals on 15 shots. It was the second consecutive start in which the Bolts goaltender was pulled.
The teams also combined for six goals in the second period, which ended with Buffalo holding a commanding 6-2 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
“We generated some good opportunities for ourselves right off the bat,” Pominville said. “It was a big win for us and puts us right in the mix.”
Stafford’s tip-in at 11:31 of the first opened the scoring after he redirected a shot from Christian Ehrhoff past Tokarski for his 15th of the season. Pominville then doubled the lead as he fired a slap shot from a sharp angle just 4:19 later while on the power play.
The Sabres forward now has 16 goals and 35 points in 27 games against Tampa Bay.
After Foligno made it 3-0 just 1:09 into the second, Gervais cut the deficit to two by tapping home a nice feed from Teddy Purcell.
“We got a goal, we were back in the game, and then again a breakdown,” Gervais said. “We have to be a lot harder to play against.”
Foligno’s second of the night came at 16:22 of the second, via the power play, after Tropp and Smith exchanged a pair of goals that made it 4-2 with approximately six minutes remaining in the middle period.
Foligno now has five goals and two assists in five games since joining Buffalo on Mar. 10.
With Buffalo leading 5-2 with three minutes left to play in the second, Boyes’ sixth of the year increased the Sabres’ lead to four, while Pominville added another tally early on in the third before Malone capped the scoring with a tip-in of Eric Brewer’s shot from the point.
“We have to get our emotions up,” Gervais added. “If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down kicking and punching. We want to make sure everyone here can bring a little bit more and we want to show up and fight hard every game.”