Buffalo 3 - Tampa Bay 1
Sunday, April 14, 2013
First Niagara Center
The race for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot has turned into anyone’s best guess, and on Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres at least momentarily re-entered the discussion.
The Sabres came into the day six points behind the New York Rangers for the final slot. They closed the gap to four points Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at First Niagara Center, hinging their postseason hopes on a pivotal stretch of games this week. Buffalo is 5-2 over its last seven games.
Eight different Sabres recorded a point and Jhonas Enroth, starting in back-to-back games after Saturday’s 29-save shutout performance, remained hot in net, turning away 32 of 33 Tampa Bay shots. Enroth’s pair of wins, his first in consecutive team games since 2011, have helped the Sabres climb back into the playoff picture with five games to go.
Buffalo was outshot, 33-22, for the third straight game. Enroth, who is 4-0-1 with a 1.55 goals against average and a .951 save percentage over his last seven appearances, earned first-star recognition for the second straight game.
The Sabres opened the game’s scoring at the 15:51 mark on the power play when Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis each snapped prolonged scoring droughts. Vanek threw a backhanded, no-look pass to the front of the net where Ennis buried his first goal since March 21 to give the Sabres a quick 1-0 lead. The assist was Vanek’s first point since returning from an injury four games ago.
Buffalo pushed its lead to 2-0 eight minutes into the period when Jochen Hecht skated down the right side and released a wrister from the the top of the circle, sending the puck caroming off the blocker of Mathieu Garon and into the net. Kevin Porter then connected on a pass from Brian Flynn at 7:23, tipping in his sixth goal to give the Sabres a 3-0 edge. Benoit Pouliot got Tampa on the board seconds later, ending Enroth’s shutout streak at 96:11, which elapsed his past three appearances.
There was no scoring in the third period. Tampa Bay outshot the Sabres 11-4 in the period and 33-22 overall.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Thomas Vanek leads all Sabres with 36 points (23+12) in 31 games against Tampa Bay. ... Brian Flynn finished plus-1 in the win. He has had a positive or even plus/minus rating in 20 of his 21 games this season. The Sabres are 10-7-4 in those games. ... With his goal, Kevin Porter has four goals and seven points in his last seven games and is on a career-best four-game point (1+3) streak ... Three Sabres topped their career highs in ice time tonight: Kevin Porter(18:56), Bryan Flynn (18:32) and Mark Pysyk (18:30). John Scott (10:43) saw his highest TOI of the season. ... This was Buffalo’s ninth and final afternoon game this season, finishing 4-4-1 ... Buffalo leads the all-time series between Tampa Bay with a 49-23-5 overall record and 23-13-2 at home.
Luke Adam was the only healthy scratch for the second straight game.
BUFFALO’S REAL-TIME STATS LEADERS
Time on Ice: Christian Ehrhoff, 26:00
Shots: Chad Ruhwedel/Steve Ott/John Scott, 3
Blocked Shots: Brian Flynn, 3
Hits: Seven tied with 2
Faceoff Wins: Marcus Foligno, 9 (9-2)
Total Faceoffs: Cody Hodgson, 15 (6-9)
BUFFALO’S RECORD WHEN...
Scoring first: 14-4-4
Leading after the first period: 6-2-2
Leading after the second period: 8-0-4
Outshot by opponent: 14-13-2
Overall: 18/149, 12.1%
Home: 10/74, 13.5%
Overall: 129/165, 78.1%
Home: 55/71, 77.5%
* Wednesday at Boston, 7:30 p.m.
* Friday vs NY Rangers, 7 p.m.
* Saturday at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.