The Buffalo Sabres, coming off a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, returned home to face the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, who headed into this game on a 17-1-1 stretch since November 29.
The Sabres were able to keep pace with the Lightning, but it was not enough in the end, as Steven Stamkos scored the game-winning goal in a 5-3 win over the Sabres at KeyBank Center.
Early on, this game saw both teams take a lead and establish momentum. Brayden Point scored 26 seconds into the game, which gave Tampa an early lead, but Sam Reinhart responded five minutes later for Buffalo.
Tage Thompson gave the Sabres their first lead of the night with just 10 seconds remaining in the first, but Ondrej Palat evened it up for the Lightning eight game minutes later and the score stood at 2-2 after the first forty minutes of play.
Linus Ullmark got the start in net following Carter Hutton’s stellar performance in Carolina. He finished the night with 25 saves on 30 shots faced, which included three goals allowed in the third period as Tampa Bay pushed ahead in the game’s final minutes.
“We knew there would be a pushback, give them credit, they are the best team in the league for a reason, it’s frustrating that it happened like that.”- Jack Eichel
The scoring continued with Marco Scandella scoring his third of the year to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov, the NHL’s leading scorer with 72 points in 44 games, scored to tie the game once again. Following controversy where Mikhail Sergachev cross-checked Johan Larsson and both players served penalties.
A couple minutes after, Ryan McDonough attempted to undercut Jack Eichel, only for Eichel to be given a penalty after his elbow made contact with McDonough. While in the box, Steven Stamkos scored his 24th to give Tampa a late 4-3 lead.
Although both teams played a hard-fought game throughout, the Sabres finished with a slim advantage in shots on goal, 33-30 after the Lightning earned 13 of their shots in the third. However, the Sabres were 0-for-4 with the man advantage tonight.
While the Sabres were able to stay out of the box for a majority of the game, late penalties hurt them as the Lightning converted their only power play attempt of the night, which resulted in a Ryan Callahan goal that sealed the deal.
The team has to regroup after two close losses as they now head on the road for their trip to Western Canada, which starts in Edmonton on Monday night against Connor McDavid and the Oilers, with puck drop scheduled for 9 p.m.