Game 55: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres surged in the third period to take home a 7-4 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Through the first two periods, everything looked normal. The Lightning were leading in scoring and shots, and had control of the game.

But Thomas Vanek's goal, bringing the score to 3-2 at the end of the second, started the beginning of the game's turnaround. Buffalo came back into the third period to score five more goals--making it six straight, including a hat trick for Drew Stafford--finishing with a Buffalo win. The Lightning fell apart after the third Lightning goal, and Buffalo took advantage of the opportunity to turn the game around.

But to recap, the game was initially positive for the Bolts.

Six minutes in, Brett Clark made a good pass to Vincent Lecavalier at right to bring the puck into the Sabres' zone. Vinny passed it across the ice to Sean Bergenheim at left to open the scoring against Buffalo.

The Lightning played hard, but with four minutes left in the first period, Drew Stafford tied the game, shooting through Victor Hedman and Dwayne Roloson from the left circle.

Read more after the jump.

The game picked up intensity in the second, with a successful Lightning penalty kill following a hooking call to Dominic Moore 45 seconds into the period second.

Victor Hedman had a brilliant moment following the PK, taking the puck up the right and passing across the net to Lecavalier, who made a decisive goal against Ryan Miller on a wrist shot at 4:58, raising the score 2-1.

At 11:24, the Lightning scored a third goal when Sean Bergenheim knocked the puck in the Buffalo net, rebounding off of Ryan Malone's shot.

The Lightning put up strong play, but the momentum swung at the end of the period when Thomas Vanek took a second goal for Buffalo, finishing the second at 3-2. At that point, things were still looking good, the shots were 24 TBL - 16 BUF for the game, of which Buffalo only took five in the second.

But despite the Lightning advantage, chaos began for a third period that marked tonight as one of the weirder games of the year.

At 4:26, Dwayne Roloson was tripped by Stafford, and falling backwards loses a goal to Jordan Leopold who evens the score with a shot from the blue line. Nothing was called on Stafford, and Buffalo took the third goal despite the interference.

After Roloson's fall, the Lightning lost composure, which first led Steve Downie and Tim Connolly to the penalty box, followed by Hedman and Stafford.

The deluge of Buffalo goals continued, from Connolly, Vanek, and then two more from Stafford, threw the Bolts for a loop.

Vinny scored a fourth goal on the power play with four minutes left in the third period, and the game ended at 7-4.

"Nobody to blame but ourselves," Boucher said afterwards, "but it was a weird night, difficult to manage."

The weirdness included the loss of Matt Smaby and Ryan Malone, who left the game due to middle body injuries. For Malone, just returning after missing five games, Boucher called the injury serious, saying that he expects Malone to be out for a while.

Roloson didn't have much to say regarding the third goal, but said on behalf of the officiating, "To err is to be human. It's part of the game."

The Lightning (33-17-5) will look to gain composure against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, February 12th at 7:30 PM. If you aren't in attendance, be sure to drop by the game thread and say hello.

Other Recaps:

Sabres vs Lightning coverage [SB Nation]

Sabres vs Lightning recap [TSN]

Sabres vs Lightning boxscore [TSN]

Die By The Blade [SB Nation]