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Game 27 recap: Bolts shut out Sabres 5-0

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Things got kind of heated at the end, but it was all Lightning, all the time at the Amalie Arena Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat what had been a recently resurgent Bufalo Sabres squad 5-0.

Tampa Bay's Valtteri Filppula and Buffalo's Torrey Mitchell pursue the puck during the third period of the Lightning's 5-0 win on Thursday in Tampa.
Tampa Bay's Valtteri Filppula and Buffalo's Torrey Mitchell pursue the puck during the third period of the Lightning's 5-0 win on Thursday in Tampa.
Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-0 in front of a crowd of 17,767 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday night.

The Buffalo Sabres entered the season as the pre-determined doormat of the NHL's Eastern Conference, if not the entire league, an assignment they posted effective arguments against recently by winning six of seven games, including their 2-1 shootout win over the Lightning on Tuesday. While a poor start had kept them from moving up in the standings, they had shown themselves to be a team that opponents took lightly at great peril. Until tonight.

"We just got off our game a little bit. We were a little bit unlucky on some of those goals and it was just about us not doing the things we've done. We didn't get the pucks out. That's what happens when you spend that much time in your own zone." - Buffalo's Zemgus Girgensons

A fairly even back-and-forth opening period saw the Lightning tally the only marker, and eventual game winner, early on, when Radko Gudas scored, a goal originally credited to Nikita Kucherov. Tyler Johnson chipped in with the lone assist.

Things changed dramatically and decisively in the second when Buffalo suddenly and inexplicably took a much more passive approach to defending against Tampa Bay skaters, allowing them to spend long stretches in the offensive zone and move the puck around almost at will.

"Hard to say right now, we have got to watch the video, but I think they were starting to come harder and they were pinching so hard, so we didn't even have time to put the puck in the neutral zone or even in their zone." - Buffalo's Nikita Zadorov.

This cost them at 4:28 when Steven Stamkos scored in close on assists from Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn.

Just over a minute later at 5:39, it cost them again. This time, Brenden Morrow converted on helpers from Jonathan Drouin and Andrej Sustr.

And yet again at 13:40 on a goal by Jason Garrison, with Stamkos and Sustr providing assistance.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the nice, Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was probably getting lonely. He only faced five shots in the first period and didn't see his first one in the second period for the first 16:37 of it. He would go on to stop a mere 13 shots on the night in recording his first shutout of the season.

It was a different story for Buffalo's Jhonas Enroth, who had more than he could handle in facing 35 shots, turning away 30 of them on the night.

The second period ended with the Lightning in full command at 4-0.

The Lightning had been called for a hooking penalty on Victor Hedman in the first while the Sabres Nikita Zadarov was called for the same in the second, and that was it in terms of penalties... until the third period.

Things got nasty, as they sometimes do when teams face each other two times in a row and/or when there's a blowout, This was both and the combination of slashing, roughing, interference, fighting, cross checking, tripping, and game misconducts (plus one little old delay of game) that started about seven minutes and lasted until the end of the game, resulted in the Lightning accruing 50 penalty minutes while the Sabres piled up 56 of their own.

"Well, if teams are going to play like that and kind of test us physically, our guys aren't going to back down. Obviously, the strength of our game is utilizing our speed and skill and playing the game. When things get out of hand like that, it's obviously because the other team is frustrated and we've been doing something right all game." - Stamkos

"They're a proud team. They came out, they battled, they were hitting hard. I'm sure they got challenged a bit in between the second and the third (periods). They came out really hard and stuff like that sometimes happens. I thought we responded extremely well." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

Brett Connolly tied a bow on the proceedings on a five-on-three power play at 18:55, getting help from Valtteri Filppula and Stamkos.

"I'm proud of the guys how we stuck together in the third. Not one guy backed down. We had everyone's back. The second period was one of the better periods we've played this year. I think in regards to puck possession, making smart plays. I think that kind of set the tone for the game." - Stamkos

This was the first game of a four-game homestand and the Lightning will be in action again on Saturday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.x

Game notes:

  • In addition to it being Bishop's first shutout, it's the first shutout that the Lightning have been involved in this season.
  • The Lightning now have a five-game home winning streak.
  • This was the second of five meetings between Buffalo and the Lightning this season. The teams split decisions in two match-ups last season. They meet again on December 31 in Buffalo.
  • Tyler Johnson has three goals and three assists in his last six games vs the Sabres.
  • Johnson also has a five-game (two goals, four assists) point streak.
  • Steven Stamkos is now just one goal shy of the 250 mark.
  • Nikita Kucherov had his four-game scoring streak snapped.
  • This was easily the most penalty minutes in one game for the Lightning this season, surpassing the 16 they picked up on October 18 at Vancouver.
  • Air Force Tech Sergeant Sonya Bryson, who frequently sings the National Anthem at Lightning home games, was recognized prior to the start of tonight's game for her 1,000th performance of The Star Spangled Banner (not all at Amalie Arena, obviously).
  • The Lightning honored Keith Babb as the 14th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Babb, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to 2nd Chance Center 4 Boyz and Devreux Kids. Babb dedicates his time helping delinquent young men get a ‘second chance' at life and find their life's purpose. He is the founder of the 2nd Chance Center 4 Boyz, a non-profit organization geared toward helping at risk boys and young men in the Tampa Bay community prevent encounters with the department of juvenile justice through gender specific programming including: character development, community service, academic enrichment, mentoring, and extra-curricular activities. Having been raised in an impoverished, single parent household, Babb understands the struggling circumstances that relate to many at risk young men. This experience coupled with the countless reports of killings and arrests of young males in Tampa Bay are driving forces behind Babb's efforts. While maintaining a full time occupation, Babb selflessly makes the time to serve as Executive Director of 2nd Chance Center 4 Boyz and does so without compensation. To date he has been the touch of grace to over 150 young men and has helped turn hopeless souls to positive contributors of the Tampa Bay community.