TAMPA — Cory Murphy isn't going to give you a fancy quote or show too many emotions.
"It's great to be here," is about all he'll say about his two games with the Lightning. Oh, and, "I've had a great time."
Wednesday night, he had a great game.
The defenseman had two points, including a power-play goal with 5.8 seconds left in the second to close out Tampa Bay's 5-3 victory over the Sabres at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The win continued a nice little resurgence by the Lightning (16-21-10), which goes into the All-Star break winning five of seven, on a 9-5-1 run and convinced it still is in the playoff race.
"Why not?" defenseman Steve Eminger said of his club, which is nine points out of the East's eighth and final playoff spot.
"If you're winning and get a good streak going and not lose more than one or two at a time, you have to say to yourself, we're looking pretty good."
It wasn't all pretty for the Lightning. The Sabres had a 34-26 shot advantage and scored two power-play goals, and Lightning goaltender Mike Smith was not at his best.
But the Lightning got goals from five different players — none named Lecavalier or St. Louis — and three goals from the defense; the first time the team got multiple tallies from the blue line, which entered with eight, second fewest in the league behind Buffalo's six.
Eminger got his fourth goal and Lukas Krajicek his first in 65 games when his shot deflected off the post and then in off Buffalo's Thomas Vanek. Murphy's first gave him three points since he was claimed Monday off re-entry waivers from the Panthers.
Steve Downie and Jeff Halpern also scored. But it was Murphy, 30, who really set a tone with 24:32 of ice time, two hits and two blocked shots.
"He showed me he wants to play," coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's added something to our team. I really like his game."
It is a game that includes manning the power play and not being afraid to launch a shot from the blue line rather than looking to pass, an affliction that has hurt the Lightning this season.
That worked at the end of a wild second in which the Sabres outshot Tampa Bay 20-14 and both teams scored three. Murphy's slap shot through a screen during a five-on-three reinstated a two-goal lead.
"I knew he couldn't see anything," Murphy said of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. "I knew he was going down because he couldn't see it, so I just wanted to get it up."
"He's got that veteran presence we were lacking a bit," Eminger said. "In two games, he's made his mark on the power play, and that has helped us."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Eminger 4 (Halpern), 4:45 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Downie 2 (Murphy, Pettinger), 5:19. Penalties—Paille, Buf (hooking), 2:53; Mair, Buf (elbowing), 19:44; St. Louis, TB (tripping), 19:53.
Second Period—3, Buffalo, Roy 17 (Pominville, Lydman), :19. 4, Tampa Bay, Krajicek 1 (Meszaros, Prospal), 1:23. 5, Buffalo, Kotalik 10 (Rivet, Gaustad), 4:04 (pp). 6, Tampa Bay, Halpern 3 (Recchi, Wishart), 13:52. 7, Buffalo, Roy 18 (Vanek, Pominville), 16:55 (pp). 8, Tampa Bay, Murphy 1 (Recchi), 19:54 (pp). Penalties—Halpern, TB (high-sticking), 2:30; Koci, TB (roughing), 6:52; Gaustad, Buf (roughing), 9:12; Koci, TB (roughing), 9:12; Koci, TB (interference), 15:25; Butler, Buf (tripping), 18:54; Tallinder, Buf (tripping), 19:22.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Krajicek, TB (interference), 6:16. Shots on Goal—Buffalo 5-20-9—34. Tampa Bay 7-14-5—26. Power-play opportunities—Buffalo 2 of 5; Tampa Bay 2 of 4. Goalies—Buffalo, Miller 22-12-4 (26 shots-21 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 13-16-9 (34-31). A—15,611 (19,758). T—2:37. Referees—Ian Walsh, Brad Watson. Linesmen—Ryan Galloway, Darren Gibbs.