The Buffalo Sabres came into tonight’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, looking take advantage of their home ice for the first time in awhile.
Fans in the First Niagara Center were fired up early, thanks in part to Dominik Hasek’s induction into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame. The same couldn’t be said for the two teams playing.
Both Buffalo and Tampa Bay struggled to take advantage on the ice for most of the first half of the period.
Buffalo would quickly gain an advantage, following a wicked wrist shot from Matt D’Agostini. In what can best be described as a rising wrister, D’Agostini would score his 5th goal of the season, and put the Sabres up 1-0 at 12:20.
The Sabres would not be done there. After missing the last 11 games due to injury, Zemgus Girgensons wanted to make his presence felt.
On a great forecheck, Girgensons forced the puck away from a Lightning player, and cleared the puck to Christian Ehrhoff. In short order, Ehrhoff fired the puck and Cody Hodgson was at the goal mouth, waiting for the tip. Hodgson’s 17th goal of the season, and first in 12 games, put the Sabres up 2-0 at 14:07.
“You know, it’s just hockey,” said Girgensons. “You see a chance to stay on the puck, and pressure them.”
Tampa would not be shutout in the first period though. A pass from behind the goal-line from Nikita Kucherov to a waiting Alex Killorn put the Lightining on the board at 17:52. This would go down as Killorn’s 16th goal of the season.
It appeared as if the Sabres would head into the first intermission, but the Lightning had different plans. At 19:46, a J.T. Brown pass from behind the goal line to a crashing Steven Stamkos would be the equalizer. This goal goes into the books as Stamkos’ 22nd of the season.
After one period, the game would be tied at 1 with Tampa outshooting Buffalo, 9-8.
While the first period brought the excitement, the second period would bring that excitement back to Earth.
Both teams combined for 25 shots (Tampa 13-12), but no goals were scored. Momentum was hard to come by, as there were not many times of sustained pressure.
Heading into the final period, the game was clearly up for grabs.
Things would take time to heat up, as the previous periods before did. Once both teams got locked in, we were treated to some interesting hockey.
Inching towards halfway through the period, Steven Stamkos would pass the puck to the point on a delayed penalty. Only problem for Tampa is that the player could not successfully receive the pass. The puck would proceed to bounce off the boards and towards the net. At 8:14 of the third, Cory Conacher would “score” his 7th goal of the season. This own goal, by way of Steven Stamkos, put the Sabres up 3-2.
“I didn’t even look until I saw the angle it took off the boards,” said Cory Conacher. “Apparently their d-man didn’t have enough energy to get back.”
Buffalo’s lead would be short lived, unfortunately. The Sabres still needed to serve the delayed penalty, and a minute in to the kill, they were assessed another penalty. With a 5-on-3 advantage, Ryan Callahan would score his 16th of the season and Tampa’s third of the game, at 10:07 of the third.
This game would head to overtime, where a Drew Stafford penalty led to a Lightning 4-on-3, which setup the game winner.
“One of the best, if not the best in the league, at getting those looks,” said Drew Stafford. “I mean, he put one in his own net even.”
Steven Stamkos, with his 2nd goal of the night, with an absolute no-doubt shot from the left of Matt Hackett gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory.
With this loss, the Sabres move to 20-45-9 on the season, with 49 points.
The Sabres take the ice again this Tuesday night, when they host the New Jersey Devils. Puck drops shortly after 7 PM, and the game will be broadcast on MSG.