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Tampa Bay Lightning falls to Buffalo Sabres 4-2

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ryan Craig stared straight ahead without a blink.

The Lightning had lost again, this time 4-2 to the Sabres on Wednesday night at HSBC Arena, and the forward, sitting at his locker, seemed dazed, though not at all confused.

"Each game is a new day," Craig said, "and it seems like we're getting the same results. We can't have that."

What the Lightning (6-14-8) got was a lesson in details, the failure of which to execute allowed Buffalo to overcome a 2-0 first-period deficit, score last-minute power-play goals in the first and second periods and extend Tampa Bay's winless streak to 0-7-2, its longest since a 10-game streak in January 2001.

Thomas Vanek got the tying and winning goals. The league's leading goal-scorer with 22 has four in three games this season against Tampa Bay, 11 in his past seven.

"On every level, you have one team where the puck seems to go in," Vanek said.

"He's one of the top players in the league," Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith said. "He goes all out. He's one of those players we can't leave alone."

But that is what happened — twice — after goals by Marty St. Louis and Mark Recchi provided Tampa Bay a first-period boost.

Vanek, who has 15 goals in 15 career games against Tampa Bay, scored on a breakaway to make the score 2-2 with 8:08 left in the second period after he sneaked onto the ice behind defensemen Paul Ranger and Steve Eminger.

He scored alone in front of the net on the power play with 14.4 seconds left in the period to make it 3-2 after Tampa Bay forward Jussi Jokinen lost a puck battle at the blue line.

"When things are going the wrong way, you have to not so much play perfect, but you have to play a smart game," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said.

Craig said it was not smart to take delay of game and roughing penalties before a fight with Paul Gaustad. That led to Drew Stafford's power-play goal with 37.8 seconds left in the first period that made the score 2-1.

"It changed the momentum. I hurt the team," Craig said.

Other details hurt, too, such as being outshot 16-7 in the second period and going 0-for-4 on the power play, including a six-on-four in which Buffalo scored an empty-netter.

Not even a brief pregame visit from former president Bill Clinton, a friend of Sabres owner Tom Golisano, changed Tampa Bay's luck.

"He was pretty entertaining when he came in," Tocchet said.

The game was entertaining, too.

"For the most part, we gave an effort," Tocchet said. "We're just in a situation where little details come back to haunt us."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Sabres 1 2 1 4
Lightning 2 0 0 2

First Period1, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 8 (Stamkos), 10:21. 2, Tampa Bay, Recchi 7 (Ranger, Szczechura), 16:18. 3, Buffalo, Stafford 5 (Spacek, Pominville), 19:22 (pp). PenaltiesKonopka, TB (interference), 14:51; Buffalo bench, served by Gerbe (too many men), 16:13; Artyukhin, TB (roughing), 18:18; Craig, TB, served by Downie (roughing, delay of game, fighting), 18:18; Paille, Buf (roughing), 18:18; Gaustad, Buf, major (fighting), 18:18.

Second Period4, Buffalo, Vanek 21 (Kotalik), 11:52. 5, Buffalo, Vanek 22 (Roy, Pominville), 19:45 (pp). PenaltiesKonopka, TB, major (fighting), 3:52; Mair, Buf, major (fighting), 3:52; Afinogenov, Buf (tripping), 8:13; Artyukhin, TB (roughing), 18:59.

Third Period6, Buffalo, Pominville 9 (Hecht), 19:47 (en-sh). PenaltiesMiller, Buf, served by Afinogenov (delay of game), 4:57; Tampa Bay bench, served by Smolenak (too many men), 7:09; Malik, TB (holding), 17:07; Kotalik, Buf (boarding), 19:15. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 10-7-11—28. Buffalo 10-16-11—37. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 4; Buffalo 2 of 6. GoaliesTampa Bay, Smith 5-10-7 (36 shots-33 saves). Buffalo, Miller 13-7-2 (28-26). A18,431 (18,690).

Tampa Bay Lightning falls to Buffalo Sabres 4-2 12/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 11, 2008 4:06pm]

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