Evander Kane scored halfway through the 3rd period, but Buffalo couldn’t find the game-tying goal as they fell 4-2 to the Lightning on Thursday night.
Kane scored to make it a 3-2 game when the Sabres finally had an extended offensive zone possession. Justin Falk send the puck across ice to Jack Eichel who found Kane in front of the net for his 11th goal of the season, and third in his last five games.
Matt Moulson opened the scoring on the game’s first shot attempt, but it seemed like Buffalo was a step behind Tampa Bay for the rest of the night.
Moulson had the benefit of a gorgeous tap-pass from Zemgus Girgensons leaving him alone in front of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. His quick wrister went short-side, top-shelf for his 9th tally of the year.
The Lightning speed was clear as they out-hustled Buffalo for seemingly all of the loose pucks. Tampa’s third goal of the game came directly after winning a 50-50 battle in the Buffalo zone. Ondrej Palat came out with the puck and whistled a pass to Nikita Kucherov who was camped in front of the net for his 17th of the season.
Palat scored the first two Lightning goals on the night. The first came on a 5-on-3 advantage after Kyle Okposo and Kane had each taken a minor. Tyler Johnson sent the puck cross-ice to Palat who was shooting at an empty net, Anders Nilsson stood no chance.
Palat’s second score came on a big-time rebound opportunity after Nilsson couldn’t control the original shot from Nikita Nesterov. Anton Stralman added the final score on an empty net goal with 18 seconds to play.
The biggest issue of the night for the Sabres was special teams play. The power-play went 0-for-4 and looked abysmal at times. Their final man advantage came right after Kane’s goal to make it a one score contest, when they should have had as much momentum as they can on the road. Instead, Tampa Bay ended up with more scoring chances on the penalty than Buffalo did.
Nilsson was solid, if unspectacular in net making his second straight start. He finished with 25 saves on 28 shots, but again, as the Buffalo goalies have seemed to do all year, kept the Sabres in the game with a chance at the end. The rebound goal from Palat was off a poor rebound, but he more than made up for it with some saves the rest of the game, including the two brilliant ones while Tampa was shorthanded.
This was the first game Buffalo has failed to registered a point since the calendar turned to 2017. If they had won, they would have jumped the Lightning in the standings. Now as it stands, Tampa has a three point advantage.
The Sabres are on a quick turnaround as they travel up the east coast to take on the Hurricaned tomorrow night. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 pm in Raleigh.