TAMPA, Fla. –Dan Boyle posted his second consecutive multi-point night as the Tampa Bay Lightning returned from the All Star break to face off against the Buffalo Sabres. Continuing a five-game home stand at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning dropped a 4-2 decision in the second meeting between the clubs this season.
Adding on to Boyle’s two assists, Vaclav Prospal also recorded a pair of points with one goal and one helper in the contest. The Lightning power play converted two of five man-advantage opportunities, but it wasn’t enough to force the comeback.
In the opening minutes of the game Vincent Lecavalier tried to connect on a shot at the side of the net, but goaltender Ryan Miller swiped the puck into the corner for the save.
Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle (22) corrals the puck in front of Buffalo Sabres center Jochen Hecht (55) during the first period on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
The Sabres responded by opening the scoring, taking a 1-0 lead on Clarke MacArthur’s sixth goal of the season. Beginning a give-and-go play, Jochen Hecht passed the puck down to Jason Pominiville as he cut across the blue line. Pominville dished the puck to the left faceoff circle where MacArthur redirected the puck past Johan Holmqvist.
Minutes later Holmqvist closed the pads on a Brian Campbell slapshot from the blue line. Denying one of the league’s top scoring defenseman, Holmqvist saw the shot through a screen by Paul Gaustad to smother the attempt.
Despite the save the Sabres added their second goal of the night at 12:14 of the frame. After MacArthur carried the puck across the offensive zone, he backhanded a pass to Pominville at the right faceoff circle. Pominville snapped a shot that found its way into the top glove-side corner of the net.
Early in the second period Holmqvist held off an attempt by Derek Roy before making a number of saves to help kill off a Buffalo power play. After a pass to Tomas Vanek was broken up in front of the net Roy looked to put the puck in at the right post, but Holmqvist covered the side for the save.
As the Sabres skated with the man-advantage Holmqvist held on to a Vanek shot from the left faceoff dot before denying Drew Stafford on a hard-angled shot from a few feet away from the goal line. The Lightning netminder went on to make a pair of glove saves on Pominville and MacArthur, stopping Pominville on a shot from the right faceoff circle off a draw.
Keeping up the pressure the Sabres connected on a deflection to build a three-goal lead. Following a feed across the blueline by Henrik Tallinder, Tony Lydman flipped a shot towards the goal from the left point. The puck deflected off Roy and Stafford before slipping through the five-hole against Holmqvist.
As the Lightning aimed to cut into the Buffalo lead Lecavalier fed a pass to Martin St. Louis at the right faceoff circle. With Miller sliding through the crease and the side of the net open St. Louis fired the puck wide of the net.
Roy scored for the Sabres moments later, connecting on a pass by Hecht from behind the net. The Buffalo forward cut to the front of the net and snuck the puck between Holmqvist’s left leg and the post for his team-leading 19th goal of the season. Pominville posted an assist on the play to record his third point (one goal, two assists) in the contest.
Late in the period Tampa Bay dashed Miller’s shutout by as they skated on a 5-on-3 power play. Although Miller held off a shot by Prospal from the slot, Brad Richards scored with 37.5 seconds left in the frame.
Moving the puck through the offensive zone, Richards fed the puck down to Boyle in the right faceoff circle. Boyle returned the pass to the point where Richards slapped the shot on goal. Beating Miller to the glove side, Richards recorded his 15th goal of the season.
Jim Craig, goalie of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, addresses the crowd at St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
Early in the final period Tampa Bay skated with the power play as MacArthur served two minutes for interference. Prospal posted one of the strongest chances, putting a shot on net from a few feet outside of the crease. Miller gloved the puck out of the air as it puck popped up on the attempt.
A few minutes later Holmqvist responded with a save for the Lightning, stretching across his crease for a right pad save as Ales Kotalik jumped into a rush by the Sabres.
With 7:38 remaining in the game Tampa Bay converted their second power play of the night to cut the Buffalo lead in half. Skating past Miller with his back to the net, Prospal turned at the top of the crease to tip a shot by Boyle to the glove side.
The goal stood as Prospal’s 20th of the season. The Lightning winger has recorded four 20-goal seasons during his career.
Although the Lightning continued to pressure the Sabres through the remainder of the contest they were unable to climb back for the win.
“It’s hard, but I thought our team played hard right on through,” head coach John Tortorella said. “I thought we play hard right on through, even throughout the circumstances and being down early.”
Buffalo out-shot Tampa Bay in the contest, 26-25, and Lecavalier led all Lightning skaters with five shots. In addition to converting two power plays, Tampa Bay killed off all three Sabres man-advantage opportunities.
“I thought we had a lot of energy all the way through,” St. Louis said. “The effort was there. If we play with that same energy, good things are going to happen for us.”
The game marked the second and final match-up between the teams at the St. Pete Times Forum this season. The clubs will meet two more times at Buffalo.
Continuing their current home stand, the Lightning will host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, January 31 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE). The game marks Tampa Bay’s fourth consecutive game on home ice as the Canucks begin a four-game road trip.