The Tampa Bay Lightning rolled into Buffalo fresh off their explosive 8-7 win in Philadelphia that gained attention across the entire sports world. They didn’t score quite as many goals Saturday night against the Sabres, but they got enough to secure another victory.
Buffalo was not without a number of chances to take the match to overtime, or even come away with a win, however. Vanek tallied the first goal of the game at 4:52 of the opening period mere seconds after being laid out on a huge hit by Mattias Ohlund.
Bloody lip and all, Vanek eventually regained control of the puck and charged into Tampa Bay’s zone to rifle a shot past goaltender Mike Smith.
Vanek had another brilliant opportunity later in the period when he took a pass after coming straight out of the penalty box and walked all alone in on net. He managed to get Smith down on the ice, but his backhand rang off the post to keep the game at 1-0 in Buffalo’s favor.
Tampa Bay would tie the game with less than two minutes remaining in the opening period on a nifty play of their own. After a turnover in the Buffalo zone, Teddy Purcell tipped in a high shot by Randy Jones from the perimeter that caromed past Patrick Lalime, who was filling in for an injured Ryan Miller.
The Sabres appeared to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period on a goal by Tim Connolly, but the play was waved off after the referees confirmed that his shot came about on a hand pass from Jason Pominville.
A little over 11 minutes through the same period, the Lightning took a legitimate lead thanks largely to a gaffe on Lalime’s part. After intercepting a dump-in, Lalime chose to play the puck forward, but sent it straight onto the stick of Tampa Bay’s Adam Hall. Lalime managed to sprawl to stop Hall’s first shot, but was helpless as Hall dug the puck out from under him and backhanded it top shelf to put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1.
From there on, Tampa Bay played a relatively cautious game as they tried to hold onto their win. At one point through nearly 14 minutes in the third period, Tampa Bay had recorded only two shots on goal. The Sabres failed to cash in a power play opportunity at the beginning of the same period, and were never able to send another puck past Smith before the final horn sounded.
It was the Sabres first loss at home after three straight wins inside HSBC Arena, and the seventh game out of their last nine to be decided by only one goal. The Sabres will have three days off before returning to action against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, November 24th in Buffalo.