Game 32: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres
The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to exhibit successful results with their 3-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres. With the recent losing streaks still burning in the memory of Lightning fans, watching tonight's game--one in which Tampa Bay was the clear winner--was a welcome sigh of relief.
The Bolts got to it in the beginning of the first, starting the game with speed and momentum that carried them from start to finish. Maybe this was aided by Buffalo's feisty energy against the Bolts, namely Nate Thompson, in the opening minutes, but it was one of the more physical games I have watched this season. The first period was evenly played, as Tampa Bay finished the period with 10 shots to Buffalo's 7.
The momentum carried over into the second period, where Dana Tyrell almost capitalized on a breakaway with a near short handed goal against Buffalo's Ryan Miller. Twelve minutes into the second, Vincent Lecavalier connected with Simon Gagne in front of the Buffalo's goal on the Lightning power play, where Gagne flipped the puck over Miller, opening the scoring 1-0. Two minutes left in the second, Steven Stamkos scored his 25th goal of the season, raising the score 2-0. The Bolts finished the second with the lead, but only after Jason Pominville scored against Mike Smith, to finish the period at 2-1. The shots in this period alone were 18-5 in favor of Tampa Bay, driven largely by Vinny (3) and Stamkos (5).
The third period was the true gift of the game--seeing the Bolts maintain consistent speed and skill until the finish, literally. Vinny had an unsuccessful penalty shot early in the period, and with two seconds left in the game, Martin St. Louis scored, sealing the win at 3-1.
This is the kind of game that this team needs--a game where they are forced to play through the entire game, a game where they remain committed from start to finish. The results were aided by the crowd, who showed incredible support for Vinny throughout the game.
"I think we improved," said Ryan Malone. "I think every facet of the game--the power play, the penalty kill, the defense--everyone did a good job. Smitty played solid, and all four lines played good. It was a good team effort."
Everyone includes Dana Tyrell, who Boucher called "outstanding" after the game, with multiple breakaway attempts. Considering Miller was in goal, that is certainly something to be happy with. Tyrell said that he primarily relies on his speed and aggressiveness, but that he will have to adjust to NHL goaltenders in order to see the results he wants.
Besides the home advantage, the "sixth man," according to Stamkos, tonight's win was an important lesson in learning how to win all types of games.
"It helps us adjust to each scenario that we play in the game," said Stamkos. "You're not going to win every game 5-3 or 5-0. There's gonna be times you win because you score a lot, and there's gonna be times like tonight where we get timely goals and we stop the other team and give them nothing. It was a solid team effort and we gotta learn to win like that as well."
The Bolts will face the Carolina Hurricanes at home on Monday, December 20, so if you are watching, jump on the game thread and give us your two cents.
Sabres vs Lightning coverage [SB Nation]
Sabres vs Lightning recap [TSN]
Sabres vs Lightning boxscore [TSN]
Die By The Blade [SB Nation]