TAMPA, Fla. - The home winning streak had to come to an end at some point, but the Buffalo Sabres still needed to force overtime to post their victory. Dropping their first loss of the season at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell by a score of 4-3 to the Sabres.
Ending a streak of five consecutive victories at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay tied their franchise record for most consecutive home wins to open a campaign. The only other time the Lightning kicked off a season with five home ice wins in a row was during the 2002-03 season.
Although the teams played through a scoreless first period, a fight and a number of shots kept the action in the Tampa Bay’s favor. Andre Roy and Andrew Peters mixed it up midway through the opening frame, helping pick up the pace for both teams. After Roy got a number of left jabs on Peters the two fell to the ice to finish the fight.
Within minutes goaltender Johan Holmqvist denied Buffalo captain Jochen Hecht on one of his four shots in the contest. Skating hard down the left wing Hecht fired a wrist shot, but Holmqvist gloves the puck for the save.
The Lightning responded with a chance by defenseman Paul Ranger. After turning over the puck in the defensive zone, Ranger carried the puck up the ice and down the right side boards for a shot at the faceoff circle. Sabres netminder Ryan Miller held on to the shot to deny the attempt.
In being held off the score board in the contest, Ranger saw a three game point-scoring streak come to an end. Ranger has points in seven of nine games this season, and leads all Lightning blue liners with nine points (one goal, eight assists).
Shortly after the attempt Jason Ward tested Miller with a shot at the side of the crease. As Brad Richards skated behind the net he pushed a pass back to Ward. The Lightning winger tried to backhand a low shot between Miller’s outstretched left leg and the goal pipe, but Miller covered the shot for the save.
Despite the saves, the Lightning opened the middle frame by scoring twice in a span of 1:20 to take a 2-0 lead.
Only 3:25 into the second period Vaclav Prospal connected for his ninth goal of the season. Starting deep in the zone, Martin St. Louis passed the puck out to Vincent Lecavalier at the right faceoff circle. Lecavalier dished a hard pass down to Prospal at the top of the crease where the Tampa Bay winger banged a one-timed shot to the right of Miller.
With the goal, Prospal extended his current scoring streak to four games. Prospal has recorded four goals and two assists in that span.
Posting a goal for the second consecutive game, Michel Ouellet scored to give the Lightning a two-goal lead. After Mathieu Darche fought for possession of the puck in the deep right corner he tapped it out to Chris Gratton at the side boards. Gratton fed Ouellet with a pass at the top of the right faceoff circle for the shot that deflected off Mike Weber and past Miller’s left glove arm.
Despite the scores, Buffalo responded twice by the end of the period to send the game into the third tied at two. Maxim Afinogenov brought the Sabres within one at 9:30 of the second as he and Tomas Vanek crashed towards the net. After defenseman Nathan Paetsch fired a shot on net that tipped in front, Afinogenov banged at the puck to put it past Holmqvist.
Minutes later the Sabres tied the game on the power play when a tipped shot slipped between Holmqvist’s legs. With Tim Connolly firing the puck from the top of the left faceoff circle, Paul Gaustad tipped the shot for the score.
Holmqvist came up with a number of tough saves following the Buffalo goals, denying defenseman Brian Campbell and Afinogenov. With the Sabres on the power play, Campbell fired a shot through traffic from the middle of the blue line. Holmqvist cradled the shot for the save.
Minutes later Afinogenov carried the puck into the zone before firing a slapshot from the right faceoff circle. Once again, Holmqvist smothered the attempt to hold Buffalo at bay.
Converting a man-advantage opportunity, St. Louis and Lecavalier combined to give the Lightning a one-goal lead. After St. Louis held the puck at the goal line, the Tampa Bay winger found Lecavalier open for a feed. Lecavalier fired the puck, beating Miller high to the stick side for his fifth goal of the season.
St. Louis recorded two assists in the contest for his fourth multi-point game of the season, giving him 11 points (two goals, nine assists) through nine games. Lecavalier also finished the game with two points, notching one goal and one assist.
Minutes after the Lecavalier goal Jan Hlavac saw a wide shot at the side of the net denied by a Miller glove save. Holmqvist responded by shutting down an attempt by Buffalo’s Jason Pominville. As Connolly skated the puck around the back of the net, he forwarded a pass out to Pominville for the shot.
Despite the save, Paetsch connected for his first goal of the season to tie the game at three. With less than seven minutes remaining in the contest, Hecht passed the puck to Pominville at the end boards. Pominville moved the puck forward to Paetsch as he moved up into the play for the score.
After forcing overtime the Sabres connected with 40.5 seconds remaining in play to post the victory. Skating on an odd-man rush, Vanek fired a wrist shot that banged off a Lightning defender and changed directions to slip past Holmqvist.
“I thought we played a good hockey game,” head coach John Tortorella said. “We lost momentum at certain times and regained it. We fought to the end. They scored a goal off our ‘d,’ we had some chances in the overtime and we couldn’t finish, and I have no complaints.”
Tampa Bay out-shot Buffalo 34-26 in the contest, including 13-5 through the first 20 minutes of play. Both teams scored once on the power play with the Lightning going 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
Posting an assist in the contest, Richards recorded his 450th career point while extending his current point-scoring streak to six games. The Lightning center has posted three goals and seven assists in that span. Richards led all skaters with five shots in the contest.
After closing out a brief two-game home stand, Tampa Bay takes off for a three-game road trip through the New York area. The Lightning make their first visit to the “Big Apple” on Monday, October 29 (7:00p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) where they face off against the New York Rangers for the first time this season.
Martin St. Louis
1 - 0 TBL
2 - 0 TBL
2 - 1 TBL
2 - 2 Tie
Martin St. Louis
3 - 2 TBL