A hot goaltender was all that stood between the Tampa Bay Lightning and a victory on Sunday evening.
Benoit Pouliot had a goal, but unlike the previous day’s outing in the nation’s capital, the Lightning could not overcome an early multi-goal deficit, as they fell 3-1 to the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.
“It was a little disappointing of a start,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I didn’t like our jump and we couldn’t muster enough goals to come back tonight. Sometimes you can do it, and sometimes you can’t.”
Behind a 32-save effort from Jhonas Enroth, the Sabres won for the second straight time after also earning a 1-0 shutout win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has dropped three in a row and five of its past six.
Tyler Ennis, Kevin Porter and Jochen Hecht each had goals for Buffalo, which jumped ahead of the New Jersey Devils in the standings. The Sabres are now 10th in the Eastern Conference with 42 points, four behind the eighth-place New York Rangers with five games remaining.
Ennis opened the scoring at 4:09 while on the man advantage, taking a pass in front of the net from Thomas Vanek and sending a shot past Mathieu Garon for a 1-0 lead.
The goal was Ennis’ first in 12 games and his first point in seven. He now has 10 on the season.
It was also Buffalo’s first power-play goal in seven games, having gone 0-for-20 during that span.
After exactly eight minutes had passed in the second frame, Hecht doubled the advantage after a Tampa Bay turnover went the other way, as the Sabres forward scored unassisted after banking a shot off of Garon and into the net.
Buffalo extended the lead to 3-0 after Porter finished off a 2-on-1 odd-man rush with Brian Flynn.
Initially Porter misplayed the puck, as he sent a pass wide of Flynn, but the Buffalo forward was able to take the puck off the boards and send a pass back to Porter just in time to beat Garon.
Porter now has points in four straight for the Sabres, with two goals and two assists in that span.
The second-period scoring was finally capped when Pouliot cut the deficit to two, picking up his eighth of the year to make it 3-1 on a tip in just 53 seconds later.
“We needed to make some adjustments,” Pouliot said. “It was a great play by Brewer, and saw I had a good angle on it, so I was able to put my stick out there and get the tip.”
That was as close as the Bolts would come, as a scoreless third period produced nothing in the goal scoring department for either team, but seemed to be marked by more energy from Tampa Bay.
The Lightning earned their fair share of chances throughout the game, and outshot Buffalo 33-22 through 60 minutes, including 11-4 in the final frame.
But Enroth proved equal to the task.
Sunday’s contest marked the first time he’s started consecutive games since he started nine straight from November 14 to December 2, 2011. Enroth has now appeared in three straight games since relieving starter Ryan Miller after two periods on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens in a 5-1 loss. It was also the first time Enroth has appeared in three consecutive games since January 14 to 18, 2012.
Garon made 19 saves.