Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning beats Buffalo Sabres 2-1

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Before Saturday night's game with the Sabres, Lightning coach Guy Boucher was asked if the game had more resonance because Buffalo was ahead of Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference standings.

"No," Boucher said. "We're not just chasing Buffalo; we're chasing everybody."

More efforts such as Tampa Bay's 2-1 win at the First Niagara Center would make that a lot easier. Steven Stamkos had two points and scored his league-best 37th goal, and Steve Downie scored the 50th of his career in a two-goal second period for the Lightning (24-24-6), which is 7-1-2 in its past 10 games.

Goalie Mathieu Garon made 26 saves as Tampa Bay had a 28-27 shot advantage and beat red-hot goaltender Ryan Miller, who entered on the best six-game stretch of his career: 5-0-1 with two shutouts, a 1.11 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage.

The game wasn't without drama.

Jason Pominville scored through Garon's legs 7:07 into the third period to make it 2-1. And Garon robbed Pominville with 4:52 left with a spread-eagle left-leg stop, his best save in a period in which the Lightning was outshot 14-5.

"I was a bit late," Garon said of his save. "I thought the guy on my right was going to shoot it. I had to stretch it. I was desperate a little bit."

The Lightning killed off its only penalty — tripping on J.T. Wyman — with 4:33 left. And Christian Ehrhoff clanged a shot off the crossbar with a minute left.

"That's what killed us in the beginning of the year," Stamkos said, "not being able to finish games like that and maybe not being able or willing to grind it out and pay the price."

The Lightning managed the end of the game solidly, Boucher said. "You can't be controlling the game until the end," he said. "You have to manage it. … It's all good."

The first period ended 0-0 but with Tampa Bay up 12-6 in shots. The only reason it was not leading was Miller. The Lightning played the final 1:43 of the period on the power play and took four shots, and each one seemed a tester.

Marty St. Louis broke free on Miller but could not get his backhand from in close past the goalie. Miller then smartly moved left to right to get a piece of Stamkos' blazing one-timer.

The Lightning kept the pressure on in the second period with an 11-7 shot advantage and allowed Buffalo just two shots in the period's final 16:49.

Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead at 7:31 after about a minute of sustained pressure. Downie found a seam in front of the net, and after taking Hedman's perfect pass from the blue line, he did a quick deke on Miller and scored.

It was 2-0 with 6:44 left on Stamkos' goal at the end of a two-on-one with Teddy Purcell, who took the puck away from Buffalo's Drew Stafford then set up Stamkos for the one-timer from the left faceoff circle.

"I just tried to get as much wood on it as I could," Stamkos said. "Teddy made a great play."

Lightning0202
Sabres0011
Lightning0202
Sabres0011

First PeriodNone. PenaltiesEhrhoff, Buf (tripping), 18:17.

Second Period1, Tampa Bay, Downie 9 (Hedman, Stamkos), 7:31. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 37 (Purcell), 13:16. PenaltiesLeopold, Buf (tripping), :42.

Third Period3, Buffalo, Pominville 20 (Vanek, Weber), 7:07. PenaltiesKassian, Buf (slashing), 12:05; Wyman, TB (tripping), 15:27. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 12-11-5—28. Buffalo 6-7-14—27. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 3; Buffalo 0 of 1. GoaliesTampa Bay, Garon 17-13-4 (27 shots-26 saves). Buffalo, Miller 16-16-3 (28-26).

Comments
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegasí birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegasí birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Steve Yzermanís summer plans: Make the Lightning better

Steve Yzermanís summer plans: Make the Lightning better

TAMPA — Captain Steven Stamkos said the Lightning's window for contending for a Stanley Cup championship is not closing."I think it's wide open," he said Thursday, one day after the Lightning lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final to the C...
Published: 05/25/18
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechki...
Published: 05/24/18
Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and donít panic

Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and donít panic

TAMPA — Don't change a thing.Don't blow it up. Don't fire anyone. Don't overreact.Thursday was not an easy day in Lightning Land. It was the day after the end of a season that ended much too soon. It was a day when bags were packed, questions w...
Published: 05/24/18
Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan, among others, played hurt

Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan, among others, played hurt

TAMPA — Not surprisingly, several Lightning players went through the playoffs with what general manager Steve Yzerman called "significant injuries."He would not elaborate Thursday on who they were, though he said that information will be made p...
Published: 05/24/18
Lightning fans leaving Game 7 early: Understandable or bad form?

Lightning fans leaving Game 7 early: Understandable or bad form?

TAMPA — Lightning fans were heading for the exits with three minutes remaining in Tampa Bay's 4-0 loss to Washington Wednesday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. Understandable given the disappointment of not reaching the Stanley C...
Published: 05/24/18
The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isnít headed to the Stanley Cup final

The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isnít headed to the Stanley Cup final

TAMPA — Washington is on to Vegas. The Lightning is not. So we asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for the single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn't headed to the Stanley Cup final. Here's their answers:Roger Mooney, staff writer: Th...
Published: 05/24/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

The Lightning will miss out on the Stanley Cup final after being shut out by the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. The Bolts were the highest-scoring team during the regular season but failed to score in almost all of the final eigh...
Published: 05/24/18
Postgame reactions from Lightningís Game 7 loss to the Capitals

Postgame reactions from Lightningís Game 7 loss to the Capitals

The Lightning was shut out once in the first 97 games of the season, the playoffs included. Then it was shut out during the last two games of the Eastern Conference final, including 4-0 on Wednesday to the Capitals in Game 7.Here are some postgame re...
Published: 05/24/18
Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

TAMPA — After Alex Ovechkin's goal 62 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday, the next highlight was an extended fight between Lightning D Braydon Coburn and Capitals RW Tom Wilson, with a two-minute break for them to spe...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18