Fresh off their loss last night to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Buffalo Sabres (7-5) were in Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. With an injury depleted lineup on the second half of back-to-back road games, the Sabres played well but couldn’t hold off the Lightning, losing 5-3.
Oh boy, did the Sabres ever get some bad injury news today. A couple of hours before game time, the team announced that star defenseman Rasmus Dahlin would miss the game with an “upper body injury”. Dahlin is listed as a day-to-day injury. It’s likely related to his scuffle last night with the Canes’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi, when Dahlin took a roundhouse punch to the face. Hopefully it’s not too serious.
Skinner – Thompson – Okposo
Quinn – Mittelstadt – Olofsson
Peterka – Cozens – Tuch
Krebs – Girgensons – Asplund
Bryson – Lyubushkin
Clague – Power
Pilut – Fitzgerald
Evenly matched in period one
With their star defenseman out of the lineup, the Sabres started the period a bit tentatively. They did generate a couple of scoring chances early on, but nothing significant.
The Lightning opened the scoring at 7:07 on a goal from Nicholas Paul, who took a shot from slot on a feed from Victor Hedman to beat Sabres goalie Eric Comrie.
The middle part of the period was back and forth without generating much in terms of scoring chances on either end. A bit of action happened when Comrie came out to play the puck behind the net and was slashed by Kucherov. It was nice to see the immediate response from Alex Tuch… that’s something that was lacking on this team in the last few seasons.
After some good pressure on the powerplay, the Sabres continued to press. They finally got a lucky bounce when the puck hopped over a couple of sticks right in fron of Brian Elliot’s net. Zemgus Girgensens banged home a shot over Elliott to tie the game at 16:24. Assists to Owen Power and Tagged Thompson.
First period shots ended up 7-6 in favor of Tampa.
A back and forth second
We saw some significant scoring chances on both ends paired with some solid goaltending. But it was the Lightning who took the lead on a gorgeous passing play at 5:05 by Steven Stamkos to Braydon Point to make it 2-1 Tampa on the powerplay.
A couple of beautiful stops from Eric Comrie, particularly when he robbed Kucherov on a Tampa 2 on 1 break and then again on a Kucherov breakaway.
The tides seemed to turn a bit on a stupid penalty by the Lightning’s Pat Maroon. He took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he shot the puck at the lineman following an offside call. The Sabres responded on the powerplay with a nice deflection by Casey Mittelstadt on a shot from Owen Power at 8:34.
More great stops from Comrie in the latter part of the period. He was the reason the game was still tied 2-2 at this point.
Shots in the second period were 14-10 in favor of Tampa Bay and 21-16 overall to this point.
Lightning strikes three times
The Comrie show continued early in the third as he registered several 10-bell saves to keep things tied at two.
The Sabres took the lead at 4:25 on a nifty goal from Jeff Skinner. Some hard work from Dylan Cozens paid off as he stripped the puck from the Tampa defender in the corner, passed it to Alex Tuch, who then found an open Skinner in front of Elliot. Skinner outwaited Elliot and deked to the goalie’s stick side.
The Lightning tied it up at 3-3 at 7:40 on a goal from Brandon Hagel, who jammed the puck home after another great initial save by Comrie.
Tampa took the lead at 15:05 when Nick Perbix’s shot from the slot beat Comrie to make it 4-3 Tampa. From Comrie’s reaction, he wanted that shot back. It was Perbix’s first goal in the NHL.
Don Granato pulled the goalie with just over a minute to play, but Kucherov sealed the Tampa victory with an empty net goal.
Final shots on net were 31-24 for Tampa.
I was pleasantly surprised by this game tonight. I thought the Sabres would be in deep trouble without Rasmus Dahlin against the Lightning. They did give up a lot of grade-A scoring chances, but Eric Comrie was excellent, making several huge stops.
Goaltending has been one of the big differences with the Sabres this year. If Comrie and Anderson can keep up this level of goaltending through the season, the team will challenge for a playoff spot.
In Dahlin’s absence, Owen Power was great tonight. Watching him play, you forget that this is a 19-year-old kid! Imagine how good he’s going to be in a few years.
Next game is Tuesday night back home in Buffalo against the Arizona Coyotes; that should be a good opportunity to break this two-game losing streak.