The road is proving to be kind to the Bolts, as tonight’s win marked the second consecutive road victory for the Lightning, who head back home for one game before taking to the road again for five more.
The Lightning jumped out to generate the first five shots on net before Buffalo was able to get their first on Tampa Bay goalie Olaf Kolzig, with 5:02 gone in the opening period.
Tampa Bay’s first score came with Sabres forward Ales Kotalik off the ice for tripping Lightning defenseman Andrej Meszaros at the 8:26 mark. The power play goal came 1:25 seconds later when Steven Stamkos tipped Vincent Lecavalier’s shot from the point passed Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. Martin St. Louis was also credited with an assist. For Stamkos, the goal marked his first in the NHL, but there was more to come from the heralded rookie.
Once the scoring starting, the goals came in rapid succession, as Jussi Jokinen stretched the Lightning lead to 2-0 just 39 seconds later with a blast from the left face off circle that eluded Miller. The goal was Jokinen’s second of the season and was assisted by Evgeny Artyukhin and Mark Recchi.
Buffalo bounced back into the contest just 42 seconds later when Clarke MacArthur netted his fifth goal of the season, with a wrist shot that got by Kolzig. Buffalo, seeking to tie the score, put the pressure on Kolzig throughout the remainder of the first period, but the Tampa Bay goaltender, making his third start of the season, was able to stop everything he faced.
The Lightning weren’t done for the period yet, as Steven Stamkos stole the puck from Derek Roy and feathered a perfect pass to linemate Ryan Malone, who lifted a wrist shot passed Miller. The goal was Malone’s second of the season.
Tampa Bay then headed for the visitor’s locker room after having put together one of their strongest periods of the season, outscoring the potent Sabres by 3-1 and out shooting them by 15-8.
The second period saw more of the same as the Lightning, skating with confidence, took control of the play from the onset. From the faceoff, the the MVP line of Lecavalier, Vaclav Prospal and St. Louis generated two quick shots on their first shift. The line finished the night with a total of 13 shots on goal, lead by Vincent Lecavalier’s six attempts.
Kolzig, who made 29 saves for the night on 31 Buffalo shots, looked sharp all period, especially on Derek Roy’s backhand attempt at the 15:51 mark.
Tampa Bay had two breakaway attempts in the second, the first by Chris Gratton that Miller was able to stop and later Martin St. Louis’s attempt caught the post and deflected away. In addition to finding the post twice, St. Louis was credited with four shots on net for the game.
Tampa Bay broke back into the scoring column late in the period as Lecavalier, returning to the ice from having served a tripping penalty, picked up a loose puck, dropped a pass for Chris Gratton, who then passed to Paul Ranger. Ranger’s shot from the slot was his first goal of the season and the team’s fourth goal of the night.
One minute and 50 seconds later, Steven Stamkos put the topper on a great evening for him and a great effort for the Lightning when he converted a pass from Adam Hall and grabbed his second goal of the game, his third point of the game, and his fourth point for the season overall.
Thomas Vanek brought the score to 5-2 when he tipped a puck passed Kolzig with just seconds to go in the second period. The power play goal was Vanek’s ninth of the season and gave him sole position of the NHL lead in that department.
After a scoreless third stanza, the Lightning had a hard-fought, well-deserved victory, their third win in the past four games.
By all measures, tonight was a breakout game for Lightning rookie Steven Stamkos, who now has points in two consecutive games.
We really played our best game," Stamkos said afterwards. "We've been doing things the last few games that we weren't doing in the beginning of the season."
Like scoring. The Lighting, which had found goals hard to come by early in the season, have now netted eight in the passed two games. And, according to Captain Vincent Lecavalier, there could have been more.
"We're skating, we're first on the puck, and we're aggressive," Lecavalier said. "We scored five, and I thought we could have scored more."
Tampa Bay will look to continue the roll when they play the Ottawa Senators Saturday night at home at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Martin St. Louis
1 - 0 TBL
2 - 0 TBL
2 - 1 TBL
3 - 1 TBL
4 - 1 TBL
5 - 1 TBL
5 - 2 TBL
Holding the stick
Holding the stick