This one looked ugly for the first 30 minutes (and not exactly great for much of the second 30) but Ben Bishop's heroics in the net were a huge factor in allowing the Lightning to hang around and mount just enough offense to overcome a one-goal deficit and escape with the win, breaking a two-game skid in the process.
"Yeah, you know we don't want to lose three in a row. We've kind of prided ourselves on that. Tonight was a big game for us as far as not getting on the wrong side of things before (what is) probably one of the harder road trips we'll have all season." - Bishop
The Sabres took the early lead at 2:52 of the first when Sam Reinhart capitalized on a giveaway in front of the Lightning net that left Bishop alone and exposed. Tyler Ennis picked up the lone assist on the lone Buffalo goal on the night. They would carry that 1-0 lead into the first intermission, having outshot the Lightning 16-3 at that point.
The second period didn't look much better, at least in the beginning, with Tampa Bay producing only three more shots by the 10-minute mark. But at 13:41, Vladislav Namestnikov stole the puck at the blue line, broke in all alone, made some nice moves in front of Buffalo netminder Chad Johnson and tied the game.
"He's hanging in there. First of all, he's a gamer so he's just trying to get better. He's been fighting, fighting, fighting to find a spot in the lineup. He's getting his chance this year and surely making the best of it. He scores obviously a huge goal for us to tie the game up and you've just got to give kids like that credit because he's never quit. He's kept coming and coming, and he's deserved the ice time he's getting now." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The score was tied at one to begin the third period and it was becoming clear that this was a "next goal wins it" affair. That goal would come for the Lightning with just under four minutes remaining on a power play with the Sabres Cody Franson in the box on an Interference call. Alex Killorn, returning to the lineup after missing Thursday night's loss to the Dallas Stars, found himself with the puck on his stick after some chaos in front of the net and banged home what would be the game winner, getting assists from Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.
"It was a scramble in front of the net. Johnny (Tyler Johnson) made a great play to just hit it to a side because it was such a scramble. I had it and I knew the goalie was out of position." - Killorn
- With this win, Ben Bishop is now the Lightning's all-time leader in wins with 84, surpassing the mark previously held by Nikolai Khabibulin. It's also the 99th of his career. "It's great, it's an honor", said Bishop. "This is a great organization. It's been a pleasure to play for them so far and hopefully we can set that number a little higher."
- Killorn's goal was his first of the season.
- The Lightning power play was 1-4 on the night while the penalty kill was a perfect 3-0.
- Buffalo ended up outshooting the Lightning 32-22.
- Defenseman Slater Koekkoek was called up from Syracuse and made his first appearance at home for the Lightning (he appeared in three games last season, all on the road). He recorded one hit and one blocked shot in 10:21.
- The Lightning honored Lester Cypher as the third Lightning Community Hero of the year during tonight's game. Cypher, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Volunteer Way. For the past 29 years, Cypher has volunteered with thousands of children, elderly and working poor throughout Central Florida. In 1999, he started the Volunteer Way, Inc. that now assists 23,000 families each month with a food box for their families. The Volunteer Way now has five locations throughout Pasco County. Their Moon Lake facility supplies hot showers, haircuts, a laundromat, and a clothes closet to one of Pasco County's poorest areas. They also provide a mobile food pantry that gives free food to people who have no access to public transportation. At the age of 79, Cypher volunteers 30 to 50 hours a week in order to change the lives of the less fortunate. He wants to be known for being kind to the less fortunate and for doing the best he could in the process. Cypher and the Volunteer Way will continue to serve people affected by poverty for years to come.