TAMPA, Fla. – Lindy Ruff has shuffled his lines more than a Las Vegas card dealer this season, but his most recent move may be the winning hand he’s been searching for.
Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville both scored twice, and Drew Stafford had one goal and two assists, as the Buffalo Sabres routed the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 on Tuesday in front of 17,212 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The seven goals are a season-high for Buffalo, and the win denied Tampa their first-ever season sweep of the Sabres.
Corey Tropp and Brad Boyes rounded out the Buffalo scoring when they each scored during a wild four-goal second period for Sabres.
The win improves Buffalo’s record to 34-29-10 (78 pts.) with nine games left to play. They remain two points back of Washington for eighth place in the East, after the Capitals handed Detroit a 5-3 defeat in Motown tonight.
The Sabres are now 10-2-4 since February 17, when they occupied 14th spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 24-27-6 (54 pts.)
The red-hot trio of Foligno, Stafford and Tyler Ennis combined for seven points (3+4) on the night, giving them 25 points in five games since the line was formed in Ottawa on March 10. Foligno has points in all five games since he was recalled from Rochester prior to that game, and this was his second two-goal game in less than a week. He now has seven points during this five-game streak.
Before Foligno, only two players in Sabres history had seven or more points in their first six career games: Phil Housley (9) and Ray Sheppard (7).
Ennis now has nine points (4+5) during a career-high five-game point streak, while Stafford’s season-high four-game run has netted him nine points (2+7).
“I’d love to be playing with these guys for the rest of the year here,” said Foligno. “Staff is just another big guy. He’s really powerful, his stride is amazing and he’s really fast. He can also rip the puck. Then I’m just another physical guy that can finish as well. And Ennis, you can’t say enough about that guy. He’s a waterbug. When he gets loose it’s dangerous out there.”
Another highlight of the win was the lifting of a 200-pound gorilla off the shoulders of Cody Hodgson, as he picked up his first two points as a Sabre since being acquired in a trade from Vancouver on February 27. It was also Hodgson’s first two-point game since scoring twice as a Canuck on January 21.
“It’s always nice to contribute offensively on the scoresheet,” Hodgson said. “I thought our line played well; I thought all four lines contributed and played big parts in the win.”
Ryan Miller went the distance in goal for Buffalo, stopping 24 of 27 Lightning shots for his 26th win of the season.
The Sabres next see action on Wednesday when the Montreal Canadiens make their final visit of the season to First Niagara Center. Game time is 7 p.m.
1-0 BUF: Ehrhoff fires a pass from the half boards and Stafford redirects it past a screened Tokarski. (11:31)… 2-0 BUF: Pominville drops to his knee to surprise Tokarski with a one-timed laser from Hodgson (15:50, PP): … Shots: TB-6, BUF-9
3-0 BUF: Foligno finishes off a 2-on-1 by banging home Ennis' pass for his 4th of the season. (1:09)… 3-1 Gervais sneaks in down low and taps home Purcell's pass. (7:12)… 4-1 BUF: A streaking Tropp takes Vanek's pass in the slot and undresses Tokarski with the quick deke. (8:16)… 4-2: Smith hits the slot and taps the loose puck past Miller (14:14)… 5-2 BUF: Stafford lugs the puck to the net, and Foligno pokes it past Roloson for his second of the night (16:22, PP)… 6-2 BUF: Boyes outworks Smith in front for his sixth of the season. (17:00): … Shots: TB-9, BUF-18
7-2 BUF: Pominville strips Hedman in the TB zone and scores his 2nd of the game (:17)… 7-3: Brewer’s point shot deflects off Malone in front (14:57)… Shots: TB-12, BUF-11
SABRES NOTES: Tyler Myers (suspension), Brayden McNabb (healthy), Nathan Gerbe (upper body) and Matt Ellis (knee) were Buffalo’s scratches… Buffalo announced before the game they have signed forward Phil Varone to a three-year entry level contract. Varone, who signed a one-year AHL contract with Rochester in September, is currently leading the Amerks in scoring with 43 points (8+35) in 63 games.