Sabres top NHL’s best


Buffalo never trailed in a game against the NHL’s best team as the Sabres skated to a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Ryan O’Reilly registered back-to-back three-point efforts since Jack Eichel left the Sabres lineup and Buffalo used goals from four different forwards to take advantage of a Lightning team playing on consecutive nights.

Nicholas Baptiste netted the game’s opening goal at the 6:25 mark of the 1st period. After racing into the offensive zone, Baptiste chipped the puck along the boards where Zemgus Girgensons slid it right back to Baptiste in front of the net. The former 69th overall pick made one move and went five-hole on Lightning backup netminder Louis Domingue. The score was Baptiste’s second of the season, and fifth in 23 career NHL games.

Yanni Gourde evened the score on a power-play tally later in the initial period. Victor Hedman controlled the puck at the point for the Lightning’s 2nd ranked unit on the man advantage. He passed to the NHL’s leading scorer Nikita Kucherov on the right wing who put a firm pass on Gourde’s stick to redirect past Chad Johnson for Tampa Bay’s first goal.

Sam Reinhart gave Buffalo its second advantage of the game converting on a red-hot Sabres power play early in the middle frame. Evan Rodrigues found Reinhart camped in front of the opposing goal, seemingly his home lately, and the 22-year old forward sent a one-touch pass to Ryan O’Reilly in front. Domingue saved O’Reilly’s initial shot but Reinhart converted on the second opportunity for his 12th tally of the year. It was Reinhart’s seventh point in his last five games.

With that score, Buffalo’s power play has recorded a score in 12 of the last 16 games. The Sabres have gone 15-47 on the man advantage during that span, good for a 31.9 percent conversion rate.

Vladislav Namestnikov tied the game at two apiece on a fluky goal a little more than halfway through the second period. Viktor Antipin was skating behind the net to play the puck when Johnson inexplicably tried to take the puck himself. Instead, the two got tied up and the puck floated right in front of the Sabres open net. Namestnikov’s tap-in was his 19th of the season, one of the easiest of his career.

Buffalo wasted no time in generating its third lead of the game, this time courtesy of Scott Wilson. Casey Nelson fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that Wilson got a piece of and deflected through the five-hole of Domingue for the third one-goal advantage of the game. It was Wilson’s fourth score since arriving in Buffalo, with Nelson and Antipin recording the assists.

Ryan O’Reilly extended the Sabres advantage to two goals on the power play early in the final period. O’Reilly made a nice pass from behind the net to Kyle Okposo in the slot who blasted a one-timer that didn’t hit the net. The puck caromed off the board to O’Reilly after the missed shot and the Clinton, ONT native scooped a backhand by an unsuspecting Domingue for a 4-2 Buffalo lead. It was O’Reilly’s 18th tally of the year and his 11th score on the man advantage, good for fourth most in the league.

Ryan Callahan kept the high-flying action going as he potted his third of the year, cutting the Buffalo lead to 4-3 just after the Sabres completed killing an Okposo penalty. Brayden Point started the process by setting up Mikhail Sergachev for a one-timer from the right point. The puck never got through to Johnson, deflecting off Marco Scandella’s skate and right to Callahan in front of the net. The alternate captain collected the puck and slid it by Johnson to make it a 4-3 contest.

Sam Reinhart ensured the Buffalo victory with an empty-net goal with eight seconds remaining, giving him his first multi-goal effort of the season. O’Reilly collected the lone assist on the goal as he recorded back-to-back three point games with a goal and two helpers.

Buffalo has scored 20 goals in its last five contests, the most in any five-game stretch for them this year.

Johnson recorded 26 saves for Buffalo en route to his third win in his last four starts. That stretch came after Johnson lost 16 of his first 17 decisions of the year.

The Sabres travel to Ottawa for their next game to take on the Senators. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 pm from Canadian Tire Centre in the Great White North’s capital city.



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