Lightning win third straight, topple Sabres 4-1

Playing their first full game since losing Stamkos, the Lightning get a big night from Filppula and a standout effort from Bishop to stay perfect on their current road trip.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1, at KeyBank Center in Buffalo Thursday night.

This year’s edition of “Life Without Steven Stamkos” began for the Lightning in Detroit on Tuesday with a win over the Red Wings. The saga continued tonight in Buffalo with Valtteri Filppula reaching career milestones and Ben Bishop coming up big yet again in net.

“You’ve got to be really happy for guys that need to step up now that 91 is not in the lineup, and I was really happy for (Brayden Point) to get that one at the end. I thought (Tyler) Johnson had a really strong game, he was on the plus side of things, he was on the score sheet and the same with Killorn. We’re going to need guys. We’re going to need balanced scoring throughout the lineup, and that was good to see those guys did well.” - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

The Lightning opened the scoring at 8:15 of the first when Nikita Nesterov’s one-timer beat Sabres goalie Robin Lehner. Filppula and Jonathan Drouin had the assists on the play. It was Nesterov’s second goal in as many games.

For Drouin, it was his first appearance since missing seven games with an injury.

That score held through the first intermission, even though Buffalo had outshot Tampa Bay 15-11 in the period. For the Lightning, it’s the third game in a row in which they led after one period.

The Lightning doubled the lead to 2-0 when Alex Killorn converted on the power play with a wrister. Filppula picked up his second assist of the night, giving him 250 for his career as well as his 400th career point. His next goal will be the 150th of his career.

“Well, he’s a pro. There’s some guys on the team, you working with here, doing this, whatever, and with Fil, he’s just a pro. You don’t really have to worry about him. He’s always going to give you an honest effort. More often than not, he’s always making the right play. It’s nice to see him getting rewarded with points because ultimately guys want to hit the score sheet. But that was good to hear hit 400 (career points). I didn’t know that. That’s quite an accomplishment.” - Cooper

Brayden Point was credited with the secondary assist.

Buffalo reduced the margin back to a single goal with a power play goal of their own at  12:50, with Cody Franson scoring on assists from Evander Kane and Taylor Fedun.

Just under seven minutes later and the period coming to an end, Nikita Kucherov stretched the lead back to two at 19:42 with a tip-in goal, getting assistance from Alex Killorn.

The period ended with the Lightning up 3-1, and having outshot the Sabres 16-10.

Bishop, as usual, was excellent, eventually stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced on the night. He’s now 9-0-1 in his career versus Buffalo.

“Let’s be honest, you’re never going to turn your back on winning three in a row, but it was the Ben Bishop show all the way. He must have made six, 10 bell saves in the first few minutes of the game. I looked up at the shot clock and they had 14 shots in the first 10 minutes of the game. I don’t know what that does, but that’s on pace for like 75 shots on goal. That’s unacceptable. But the boys have played, this is three games in four nights, four in six, so they’ve kind of regrouped a little bit, and as that game went on, we got a little bit stronger. But you’ve got to thank Bish for keeping us in it early.” - Cooper

The Lightning would hold off threats in the form of two shorthanded situations in the third. Meanwhile, a Delay of Game call against Fransen at 16:59 not only made it virtually impossible to pull Lehner for an extra skater but Point scored with the man advantage, with help from Tyler Johnson to wrap it up for the Lightning.

With the win, they’re 3-0 on their current road trip, which continues Saturday against the Flyers in Philadelphia.