The Buffalo Sabres had two goals on their minds tonight; keep pace in the standings for a potential playoff berth, and avoid a regular season sweep against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They managed those two goals, along with seven more on the scoreboard in a 7-3 victory over the Lightning inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
It was an offensive onslaught by Buffalo, where six different players recorded a multi-point night. Drew Stafford initiated the tidal wave of Buffalo goals at 11:31 of the first period. Stafford was in the perfect spot it front of the Tampa Bay net as he tipped in a hard shot by Christian Ehrhoff. Jason Pominville added Buffalo’s second in the opening period with a brilliant wrister while standing nearly parallel with the side of the Tampa Bay net. The goal was set up by Cody Hodgson, who recorded his first point as a Buffalo Sabre through the assist.
The second period showcased even more scoring, starting just a little over a minute into the frame. Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno stormed into the Tampa Bay zone on a two-on-one rush before Ennis threw a crisp pass to Foligno, who roofed the puck over rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski. Buffalo’s next goal came just over seven minutes later on a highlight reel score by Corey Tropp, which goaded Tampa Bay into pulling Tokarski to put in struggling netminder Dwayne Roloson.
It proved to be a futile effort, as the Sabres scored twice on Roloson in the second period alone. Foligno notched another goal in the middle frame, and was joined by Brad Boyes, who secured his sixth of the season.
Buffalo again struck early when the third period rolled around—17 seconds in, to be exact. Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman fumbled with the puck in his own zone before Pominville stole it away, and effortlessly tossed it over Roloson for his second goal of the night and his 27th of the season.
The Lightning tallied goals by Bruno Gervais, Trevor Smith and Ryan Malone, all in even-man situations. Ryan Miller surely would like to have had all three back, but the Buffalo netminder finished the contest with 24 saves to attain his 26th win this season.
The win lifted Buffalo to 78 points, propelling them past the Winnipeg Jets in the Eastern Conference standings. They remain two points behind the Washington Capitals, who defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-3 to improve to 80 points.
Buffalo will next play the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night inside First Niagara Center for their final meeting of the season, while the Capitals will take on the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night in Philadelphia. Buffalo and Washington are just under a week away from what will more than likely be a pivotal matchup to determine who leaps into that final playoff position, which is set for Tuesday, March 27th in D.C.