Buffalo had come out rather sluggish in its last three games—being outscored 7-2 in the process—but that was not the case against the Lightning, as the Sabres jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead.
Jason Pominville led the Sabres’ offense with his first hat trick of the season.
Pominville started the scoring on the power play at the 5:19 mark of the first period. The right-winger blasted a gorgeous one-time feed from Derek Roy into the corner of the net past Tampa goalie Antero Niittymaki.
The goal marks just the fourth power-play goal in the Sabres’ last 15 games.
Rookie defenseman Tyler Myers putthe Sabres up 2-0 at 13:56 on a slap shot from the point.
Myers out-dueled his rookie defensive counterpart, Victor Hedman, by scoring his tenth goal of the season. Myers was also a plus-one with four blocked shots.
Pominville scored his second of the game on his own rebound after a long breakaway pass from Henrik Tallinder sprung him up the middle. Pominville got his hat trick with just 34 seconds left on a feed from Tim Connolly that left him with a tap-in.
Roy provided the only goal of the second period after stealing the puck away from Steve Stamkos and scoring on a three-on-one shorthanded break. Steve Downie and Vincent Lecavalier scored for Tampa Bay.
Downie broke up Ryan Miller’s shutout bid at 8:06 of the third period when he put home a wide open pass from Stamkos. Miller stopped 23 of 25 shots in all. Miller had a few tests early in the game, including a breakaway against Lecavalier, but Miller held strong and kept the Sabres in the game when it was still close.
Lecavalier’s slap shot on the power play got the Lightning to within two, but Thomas Vanek added an empty-net goal at 18:14 of the third period to give Buffalo a 5-2 lead.
Captain Craig Rivet collected 17 penalty minutes in the first period after instigating a fight with Lightning forward Todd Fedoruk. Fedoruk hit Buffalo defender Chris Butler into the boards and Rivet came over to defend his teammate.
One concern for Buffalo is Paul Gaustad. “The Goose” logged just 10:31 of ice-time and was a minus-one. The line of Mike Grier-Gaustad-Matt Ellis combined for a minus-three altogether—they were the only three minus players on the team.
To go along with the three-game skid, the Sabres were just 1-7-3 in their last 11 road games heading into Wednesday night’s contest in Tampa Bay. The win could not have come at a better time. The Ottawa Senators 6-3 loss at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers gives the Sabres a five-point led in the Northeast Division.
This was the second game in Buffalo’s four-game, Southeast road trip. The Sabres will face the Florida Panthers on Friday night at 7 p.m.