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Game 43 recap: Lightning outlast Sabres 2-1

The Tampa Bay Lightning threw everything they had against the Buffalo Sabres, establishing season-highs for shots taken during a period and a game, and got just enough into the net to escape with a hard-fought 2-1 win at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Friday night.

Brett Connolly tries to get the puck past Buffalo's Michal Neuvirth in Tampa Bay's 2-1 win on Friday
Brett Connolly tries to get the puck past Buffalo's Michal Neuvirth in Tampa Bay's 2-1 win on Friday
Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 2-1 in Tampa Friday night.

Hello Raw Charge readers and welcome to 2015 at the Amalie Arena, where the New Year begins with as much of a "Whew!" as a "Whooo!".

A common criticism thrown at the Lightning is that they're often too "fancy", working too hard on creating picture-perfect scoring opportunities at the expense of simply firing the puck at the net. That criticism, for one game at least, was rendered invalid tonight. The Lightning threw a total of 47 shots, all different kinds, at Buffalo goalie Michal Neuvirth, 27 during the second period alone (both season highs by far for Tampa Bay), cashing in on two of them, or exactly enough to win the game.

"We didn't fall behind in this one, but it was tough." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

The Lightning got on the board early, scoring with Valtteri Filppula backhanding a rebound resulting from Ryan Callahan chopping at the puck in the crease. Cedric Paquette was credited with the secondary assist.

The working class effort was the only goal scored during the period.

The second period opened with the Lightning on a power play against one of the league's worst penalty killing teams. It was at the :50 mark when Cody McCormick scored shorthanded to tie the game at one. He was assisted on the play by Patrick Kaleta.

"Opening shift, we're coming out on the power play and give up a shorthanded goal. We had every reason to maybe hang our head a little bit, kind of come out of our game plan. I think all it did was piss them off and they played great." - Cooper

The period was otherwise dominated by the Lightning in every phase of the game, except scoring, with the teams spending a majority of the time in the Buffalo end and the Lightning firing shot after shot. Breakaways, shots from in close, shots from far away. Nothing was going in. The shot differential for the period was 27-5 in favor of the Lightning.

"Tip your hat to the kid in goal, Neuvirth, he was outstanding." - Cooper

"He played a great game, hats off to him. He was a big reason it was close like that." - Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.

It looked like Brett Connolly might have regained the lead for the Bolts late in the period but the puck didn't cross the goal line.

The period ended tied at two and there was a sense of unease going into the third. Would the Sabres, having survived the onslaught, come out well-rested and prepared to pounce on a Lightning miscue?

To a somewhat lesser degree, Tampa Bay dominated play again in the third and finally cashed in at 14:42 on a goal by Steven Stamkos on a pass from Jonathan Drouin and additional assistance from Alex Killorn.

"I was trying to stay patient and when (Drouin) passed it to Stamkos, I know he's going high. He's such a great shooter and hit it perfectly." - Neuvirth

The fact of the matter is that in a game like this, the current roster of the Buffalo Sabres simply isn't talented enough to offer much of a response other than defend, defend, defend and hope for a puncher's chance. To their credit, they don't show an ounce of quit and that was almost enough tonight against a Tampa Bay team that wasn't shy about letting pucks fly all over the place.

Meanwhile, in the comparatively lonely Lightning net, Ben Bishop faced a total of 21 shots, fending off 20 of them.

This was a one-off homestand for the Lightning and they'll return to the road for their next two games, Monday night in Philadelphia and Tuesday night in Boston. They'll return home to host the Edmonton Oilers on January 15th.

Game notes:

  • This was the fourth game between the Sabres and Lightning this season, all within the last 39 days. They'll meet one final time when the Sabres return to the Amalie Arena on March 3rd.
  • The previous season high for shots in a period was 18 and for a game it was 41.
  • Bishop is the only Lightning goalie to have faced Buffalo twice so far this season, having been between the pipes for a 5-0 shutout win in Tampa on December 4th. Evgeni Nabokov got the start in the overtime loss at Buffalo on December 2nd and Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up the win during his one-game call-up in Buffalo on December 31st.
  • The Lightning have now won seven of their last eight games overall and have a five-game winning streak at home.
  • Tyler Johnson's latest points-scored streak ended at four games tonight.
  • The Lightning will play 20 of their remaining 39 games at home.
  • The Lightning honored Linda Marcelli as the 21st Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. Marcelli, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Academy Prep of St. Pete, Academy Prep of Tampa, and Edible Peace Patch. Tonight's Lightning Community Hero is a trailblazer and philanthropist. Marcelli was one of the first women to assume management positioning at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street. She has since used her platform and heart of gold to give back to the community and those in great need. Marcelli serves as a mentor to younger women and regularly speaks inspiration into the lives of women at various leadership conferences. Marcelli and her late husband Tony raised four sons and provided foster care to several others. Marcelli's love for children has driven her to ensure that underprivileged children in her community are equipped with the sufficient tools to have a fulfilling life. She is a trustee and former board chair for Academy Prep, a private 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution dedicated to providing quality education to underprivileged middle school aged students.Marcelli has served as a positive, influential resource to the Urban League, YWCA, Mayor's Ad Hoc Committee for Redevelopment of Midtown (St. Pete), and Edible Peace Patch. Her dedication to serving the Tampa Bay community has garnered Marcelli the recognition of various community achievement awards including the Jeffrey L. Fortune Dream Maker Award (2014) and the YWCA Tampa Bay Woman of Distinction Award (2013).