The Buffalo Sabres dug themselves into another two-goal hole, but there wouldn’t be any third period magic on this night.
Steven Stamkos scored the game-winner in the second period as the Tampa Bay Lightning snapped Buffalo’s six-game point streak with a 2-1 win at First Niagara Center. The loss also ended Buffalo’s home point streak at 11 games (6-0-5), as the Sabres lost at home in regulation for the first time since December 10.
The loss dropped the Sabres to 24-25-6 (54 pts.) on the season, and they’ll go to bed tonight in 14th place in the Eastern Conference – eight points behind eighth-place Toronto.
After managing just 13 shots through the first two periods, the Sabres unleashed 14 at Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon in the third. Christian Ehrhoff nearly sent the game to overtime with 58 seconds left in the game, but his 44-foot bomb clanged off the crossbar over Garon’s left shoulder.
“We didn’t play well enough,” said Lindy Ruff. “I thought the second period we were terrible starting with the goal against where we left a guy wide open in front of the net. No coverage at all on that play. I thought we got out-battled on the wall a couple of times. Not enough battle. Didn’t play the game quick enough and didn’t make enough good plays.”
Stamkos and Steve Downie staked the Lightning to a 2-0 lead, but it was Tampa’s stifling defensive system that frustrated the Sabres for two periods.
“We didn't want to get the puck deep for quite a while there tonight so it took us awhile to get to a point where we could do what we needed to win a hockey game and it was already coming from behind,” said Ryan Miller, who stopped 26 of the 28 shots that were sent his way. “It’s frustrating to play against them. They’ve had their share of troubles this year, but when they're playing their system the right way, it is frustrating to play against them. We have to understand that there’s different types of hockey games for us.”
Tonight’s game wrapped up Buffalo’s 15th set of back-to-back games. They are now 5-7-3 in the second game, after improving to 10-6-0 in the first game last night.
No scoring… Shots: TB-12, BUF-6
TB 1-0: Downie is left all alone in front, scoops up the rebound and slides it into the open net. (7:31)… TB 2-0: Purcell feeds Stamkos on the left side of the slot, and he one times his 32nd of the year past Miller. (13:16)… Shots: TB-11, BUF-7
2-1: Pominville picks up a loose puck at the top of the circle and sneaks a wrister through a crowd in front. (7:07)… Shots: BUF-14, TB-5
SABRES NOTES: Cody McCormick (upper body) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy) were Buffalo’s scratches. McCormick was injured last night against Dallas, and is listed as being day-to-day; Gragnani has been a healthy scratch for the past five games.