BUFFALO, N.Y. — The old Lightning showed up Wednesday night, jittery in the third period, on its heels and unable to get key saves.
The result: Tampa Bay allowed six third-period goals in a brutal 7-4 loss at HSBC Arena to the playoff-hungry Sabres, who wiped out a three-goal deficit.
It was the 20th time this season, and 14th in regulation, the Lightning (29-36-8) lost after entering the third period tied or ahead. And it came after a second period in which Tampa Bay scored twice to build a 4-1 lead with an 8-2 shot advantage.
"That was pretty embarrassing. I'm embarrassed," defenseman Dan Boyle said.
"We knew they were going to come out hard, and we did not respond at all. They beat us to every puck and outworked us."
It was a stunning turnaround as the Lightning, which has been outscored 104-67 in the third this season, lost a three-game winning streak and goaltender Karri Ramo blew a gasket, allowing five goals on 15 shots.
"It seemed like every shot they took somehow kept going in," Ramo said.
Jason Pominville, who had two goals and a four-point night, and Jochen Hecht scored within 16 seconds to make the score 4-3 5:19 into the third period.
"After that, it seemed like we were on our heels instead of our toes," wing Mathieu Darche said. "Instead of taking it to them, we sat back.
"They have speed, and if you let them make plays, they'll make plays."
Thomas Vanek scored at 8:25 and got the winner with 6:46 left past a shell-shocked Ramo, who was looking right as the shot came left. Vanek finished a natural hat trick with his 31st with 3:53 left.
In the previous game between the teams, Feb. 20 in Buffalo, Vanek scored twice in the third to tie it and again in overtime to give the Sabres, who have a league-high 234 goals, a 4-3 win.
Wednesday, Hecht scored an empty-netter while short-handed with 5.5 seconds left for a less-than-merciful finish.
Worse, defenseman Paul Ranger left the game midway through the third period with a left shoulder injury after being checked into the boards by Daniel Paille.
It also left totally moot the good things that had happened.
Vinny Lecavalier had three points with two goals that gave him 39 for the season and seven in five games. Marty St. Louis scored his 23rd and Jeff Halpern his 16th — sixth in 11 games since coming from the Stars in the Brad Richards deal.
But Tampa Bay was overwhelmed in the third period and was outshot 16-4 and 32-19 for the game.
"I think we played two very good periods," coach John Tortorella said.
"Obviously, it was just a collapse."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Halpern 16 (Ranger), 2:50. 2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 24 (Boyle, Lecavalier), 10:36 (pp). 3, Buffalo, Pominville 25 (Hecht, Tallinder), 13:07 (sh). Penalties—Boyle, TB (hooking), 7:29; Picard, TB (roughing), 9:18; Bernier, Buf (roughing), 9:18; Afinogenov, Buf (roughing), 9:18.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 38 (Jokinen, St. Louis), 5:06. 5, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 39 (Lessard, Ranger), 18:11. Penalties—O'Brien, TB (tripping), :52; Halpern, TB (tripping), 18:40.
Third Period—6, Buffalo, Pominville 26 (Gaustad), 5:03. 7, Buffalo, Hecht 20 (Gaustad, Pominville), 5:19. 8, Buffalo, Roy 30 (Stafford, Lydman), 8:25. 9, Buffalo, Vanek 29 (Roy, Stafford), 13:14. 10, Buffalo, Vanek 30 (Roy, Stafford), 16:07. 11, Buffalo, Hecht 21 (Pominville), 19:54 (sh-en). Penalty—Stafford, Buf (tripping), 18:24. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 7-8-4—19. Buffalo 14-2-16—32. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 2; Buffalo 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Ramo 5-10-2 (31 shots-25 saves). Buffalo, Miller 33-24-9 (19-15). A—18,690 (18,690).