The Buffalo Sabres skated into Saturday night’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning sitting in 11th place, 8 points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot. The Sabres lost 2-1, vs. the Bolts, thanks to a sloppy second period, and the inability to score on a backup goalie they made sure looked like the second coming of Patrick Roy. The good news is they remained 8 points back of the Leafs (who lost 5-0 to the Montreal Canadiens on “Mats Sundin Night” in Toronto). The bad news is they now have 6 teams to leapfrog, if they want to continue their season past April 7th.
Lightning agitator extraordinaire Steve Downie opened the scoring just over 7 minutes into the 2nd period, thanks to Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers taking the shift off. Downie was left all alone in front of goalie Ryan Miller‘s crease, stopped defenseman Victor Hedman‘s shot from the point at the top of the crease and deked Miller for his 9th of the season. Myers was supposed to have covered Downie in front of the net, but left the Lightning player all alone, with Miller to fend for himself.
Tampa Bay’s goal-scoring machine (133 goals since the 2009-10 season, which is the most in the NHL), Steven Stamkos, put the Lightning up for good, netting his league-leading 37th of the year less than 6 minutes later. Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was skating the puck through the neutral zone, when he gave it away to underrated Lightning forward Teddy Purcell, who brought it back into the Sabres end on a 2-on-1 with Stamkos. Purcell made a cross-ice pass to Stamkos, who snapped home a one-timer past a lunging Miller to make it 2-0.
The Sabres had some life when 7 minutes into the 3rd period, Jason Pominville‘s seeing-eye wrist shot deflected in front of Tampa goalie Mathieu Garon just inside the left post to cut the deficit in half. The goal was Pominville’s 20th of the season, joining teammate Thomas Vanek as the only other Sabres player with 20 on the year.
Garon – who was the difference in the 3rd period – and the Lightning’s trapping defense, held the Sabres in check for the remainder of the period, as Buffalo was able to apply some sustained pressure at times to a tiring Lightning squad. Buffalo, who only managed 13 shots in the first 2 periods combined, fired 14 shots on Garon in the final period, many of them quality chances. Ehrhoff had the best chance to possibly send the game into overtime when, with exactly a minute left, he hit the crossbar on a laser that Garon had no chance to stop.
The Sabres’ (24-25-6) next game is Tuesday night in the First Niagara Center against the New Jersey Devils (31-20-4).
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Tags: Christian Ehrhoff Jason Jason Pominville Lightning Mathieu Garon Mats Sundin Montreal Canadiens New Jersey Devils Patrick Roy Ryan Miller Sabres Sabres/lightning Recap Steve Steve Downie Steven Steven Stamkos Teddy Purcell Toronto Maple Leafs Tyler Myers