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Recap: Carter Hutton, Sabres steal game from Tampa Bay Lightning

The Buffalo Sabres play a sound, boring game, and it beat the Bolts.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (53) and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) go after a loose puck during the first period at KeyBank Center.
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

So that was frustrating.

The Tampa Bay Lightning out-shot their opponents 30-19, including 22-8 in the final two periods, and still lost 2-1 to Carter Hutton, Jeff Skinner and the league average Buffalo Sabres. Oh, and let’s not forget two key posts at the end there. Anthony Cirelli had the only goal for the Bolts on the night off a great pass from Alex Killorn. Louis Domingue was also incredible in net, he just got beaten by a goalie who posted an absolutely diabolical .967 save percentage.

Rookie defenseman Erik Cernak had a relatively quiet game apart from that one time he skated below the offensive goal line. He out-shot his competition in 15:42 at 5v5 (attempts: 19-12, shots: 11-4), was on the ice for Cirelli’s goal, but took a penalty at the first. All in all? Yeah, I’m excited to see more games of his. I’d like to see how much he can do in the offensive zone with a few more reps.

It wasn’t the best night for Victor Hedman tonight. He and Dan Girardi were the only skaters to be out-shot at 5v5 in the game. Hedman got dummied on the 2-0 goal, and was on for both goals against. Shake this one off, Heddy. It was just a bad night against one of the most underratedly elite lines in the NHL.

Let’s get on with the recap, shall we?

First Period

The beginning of the first period was fairly pedestrian for both teams, but the Lightning had the edge in terms of chances. Captain Steven Stamkos had the best two chances with a pair of deft tip-shots as he skated through the slot. Sabres goalie Carter Hutton had to be sharp to stop with the pads. The Lightning third line of Killorn, Cirelli, and Mathieu Joseph were once again buzzing in the corners. Killorn had the best in-close chance for that line four minutes into the period.

Cernak was relatively quiet in the offensive zone in the early goings, which is all you should really expect from a rookie who’s known for his solid play defensively in the AHL. His big mobile body helped him negate a zone entry against when he dumped his opponent to the ice against the boards with a perfect hit.

Louis Domingue wasn’t too busy, as the Lightning were able to keep the majority of shots allowed to the outside, the Bolts’ backup put on a show when asked. While facing a 2-on-1, Domingue flashed the right-handed leather on Sam Reinhart. He would later make a huge blocker save, sprawling to his left to stop Jeff Skinner from giving the Sabres the lead. That big moment saved Brayden Point from paying for a giveaway in the slot.

0-1

But Skinner would not be stopped. Victor Hedman blocked a shot in front of the net, but lost it in his feet. Skinner, who was right on his tail, found the puck and scooped it past Domingue on the short side. Buffalo’s first line has been incredible to start the season. Skinner alone has 13 goals and 20 points in 18 games.

After One

With 1:07 left in the first period, the rookie Cernak took an interference penalty. The Lightning had a good middle of the period, but a strong last eight minutes of the first have the Sabres leading in even-strength attempts by a margin of 16-18. The Lightning also trail in shots (8-10), and scoring chances (3-7).

Second Period

Dan Girardi took a great shot off the wing that caused a massive rebound in front of Hutton’s net. Yanni Gourde, among others, battled hard for the rebound, but was unable to push it in before the whistle blew. Gourde was angered enough by the defenseman (I think it was Nathan Beaulieu?) pushing him away that he dropped the gloves to start a fight. The linesmen broke it off before it could start and told the winger to go back to his bench.

0-2

Conor Sheary backed all the way back into his own zone, before dropping the puck to Kyle Okposo behind him. With that extra inch of space, Okposo was able to snipe low on Domingue, extending Buffalo’s lead.

1-2

Almost immediately, the Bolts’ third line got one back. Killorn flipped the puck up and over the defense while Cirelli skated underneath. The sophomore center grabbed the bouncing puck and sniped top sheft on Hutton, bringing the lead back down to one goal. Gosh, where would we be without that third line.

I really did enjoy Cernak taking a Nikita Kucherov pass, diving deep into the offensive zone, and going for the net, and I figured these tweets did the job for me.

The Lightning used their highly-effective smooth passes and constant movement of the puck in the Sabres zone to gain themselves almost constant offensive zone time for several minutes. Unfortunately, Adam Erne took a one-timer by Ryan Callahan to his face, stopping play and forcing the 23-year-old to the locker room.

And thankfully a few minutes later...

After Two

Okposo goal aside, that was a very good period for the Lightning. They controlled play for the vast majority of the period, and were rewarded with a goal and a bunch of chances. At even strength, the Bolts had more attempts (15-4), shots (9-2), and scoring chances (8-3). Not bad at all, especially against a Buffalo team that has looked very good tonight and throughout the season.

Third Period

The Lightning once again dominated the first half of the period. But again, the Sabres were able to clog up the middle of the ice in both the neutral zone and defensive zone, not allowing the Lightning to get anything dangerous towards Hutton.

Joseph had a wide open chance to capitalize on a giveaway in the slot, but Hutton made a huge left pad save. And less than a minute later, he flashed the leather on Killorn. The Lightning at this point were leading 26-16 in shots over the Sabres, Hutton throwing up a .961 save percentage through 50 minutes...

Cedric Paquette hit the post after reaching around Hutton and Point had a great tip chance in the slot, similar to Stamkos in the first, but the Bolts just couldn’t find a way to put the puck in the damn goal.

In the dying minutes with Domingue on the bench, Kucherov hit the short-side post from a bad-angle shot before the puck got cleared...and with less than a second left, Kucherov hit the same post again! Lightning lose 2-1 on the road to the Buffalo Sabres. Dammit.

I think Alan puts it perfectly here. Goalie’d.