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Lightning win overtime thriller over Sabres

The Captain added three points to creep closer to that magic 1,000 point

Tampa Bay Lightning v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning won a game that they probably shouldn’t have. Starting their three-game road trip against the Buffalo Sabres, the Bolts used three power play goals and a late two-goal rally to offset some early even strength struggles. Brandon Hagel scored the game-tying goal with 2:02 left in the game and Steve Stamkos won it 2:44 into overtime to give the Lightning the 6-5 victory.

Stamkos ended up with three points to put his career total at 998 heading into the game tomorrow against the Boston Bruins. Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev also had three point nights while Corey Perry snapped a 14-game goalless drought. Brian Elliott made 32 of 37 saves. It’s not often a goaltender allows five goals and still ends up on the positive side of the goals saved above expectation stat, but Evolving Hockey had him at 0.49 GSAx, so credit to him for making the saves when it counted.

The Bolts did have a couple of familiar faces back in the line-up as Nick Perbix and Cole Koepke returned from their injuries to play. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was a healthy scratch as Coach Cooper elected to go with an 11/7 line-up.

Despite going up 2-0 in the first period thanks to goals by Brayden Point and Corey Perry (!) the Lightning were thoroughly outplayed at even strength by the young Sabres.

Brayden Point (Nikita Kucherov, Brandon Hagel) Power Play, 1-0 Lightning

Corey Perry (Steven Stamkos) 2-0 Lightning

Buffalo dominated the chances in the opening 20 minutes at 5v5 by a margin of 12-4. Of those 12 chances, 11 were deemed to be of the high-danger variety so it was only a matter of time until they got on the board. A defensive turnover by Erik Cernak led to Tage Thompson twisting up Brian Elliott before tucking it home.

Tage Thompson (unassisted) 2-1 Lightning

All throughout the period the Sabres were able to build speed through the neutral zone and pin the Lightning back and a minute after the Thompson goal, Jack Quinn used that speed to find an open slot before beating Elliott cleanly to tie the game.

Jack Quinn (JJ Peterka, Owen Power) 2-2

The Lightning were able to stem the tide a bit in the middle period. They were a little more assertive in the neutral zone, blunting the rush, but still struggled to generate much sustained offense when they didn’t have an extra skater on the ice. Despite the improved play, Buffalo took their first lead when they were able to put multiple attempts on Elliott. A lack of a stick for Mikhail Sergachev prevented him from being able to close off Tyson Jost and the newest Sabre scored his first goal for them.

Tyson Jost (Kyle Okposo, Zemgus Girgensons) 3-2 Sabres

As lackluster as they were at even strength, they were equally dynamic on the power play. The first unit put an absolute clinic on for this goal. Puck retrieval, constant pressure and movement led to a nice faked shot by Sergachev that drew players to him. It opened up the right side of the ice and Nikita Kucherov had options when Sergy passed it to him. Kucherov bumped it to the hot shooter and Point snapped it home.

Brayden Point (Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev) Power Play, 3-3

Despite the tie score the Lightning were fighting things. To paraphrase Coach Cooper after the game, they are a process driven team and their process was in disarray. Buffalo took advantage, scoring twice on goals that Elliott probably would like to have back.

Dylan Cozens (Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson) 4-3 Sabres

Jeff Skinner (Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch) 5-3 Sabres

Still, this team, even when it’s not playing at its best, or within their system has the talent to win games. Before the Jeff Skinner goal was finished being announced the Lightning were in the Buffalo zone and Alex Killorn jammed a puck on net. It didn’t go in, but Stamkos was there to collect the puck and shovel it past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

Steven Stamkos (Alex Killorn, Mikhail Sergachev) 5-4 Sabres

A little while later there was a collision involving Kucherov and UPL. Yes he was shoved into him, but the refs are going to call that interference 86% of the time. After the mandatory “you touched our goaltender scrum” it was 4-on-4. The Lightning drew a penalty shortly after and after a brief 4-on-3, Coach Cooper rolled the dice and went 6-on-4 with Elliott on the bench. It worked as Kucherov drilled a shot that hit Hagel and went past Luukkonen and into the net. It was the third Lightning power play goal in as many attempts and the Sabres were left a little stunned.

Brandon Hagel (Nikita Kucherov, ) Power Play, 5-5

The Lightning closed out regulation on the power play. For once on the night, the Sabres actually killed it off, including the 4-on-3 portion in overtime. In fact, they almost won it right after as Owen Power left the penalty box and found himself with the puck, alone in the Lightning zone with only Elliott in the way of glory. Elliott made the save.

That allowed The Captain to seal the win with a nice wrist shot off of the rush.

Steven Stamkos (Nick Paul) 6-5 Lightning