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STAMKOS' FIRST NHL GOALS POWER LIGHTNING TO WIN

Steven Stamkos said he believed that once he got his first NHL point, the floodgates would open.

The Lightning's rookie center must have known something.

One game after getting his first assist, Stamkos scored his first two goals and had three points in Thursday night's 5-2 victory over the Sabres at HSBC Arena.

Stamkos's first goal, part of a three-goal first period, was on the power play. His second, a laser from the right wing boards, cleanly beat goaltender Ryan Miller, who was shaky throughout.

Tampa Bay (3-3-3) won its second straight and scored a season-best in goals. The three first-period goals were as many as the team had scored in a game.

Jussi Jokinen scored his second goal in as many games, and Ryan Malone scored his second. Olaf Kolzig, in his first start since Oct. 16, was solid with 29 saves as the Lightning, with a season high in shots, outshot the Northeast Division leaders 40-31.

The Lightning played perhaps its best period of the season to open the game, outshooting Buffalo 15-8 and taking a 3-1 lead behind Stamkos' goal and assist.

The experiment with Stamkos on the power play paid dividends 9:51 into the game as Stamkos, planted in front of the net, sharply deflected Vinny Lecavalier's one-timer off a feed from point man Marty St. Louis.

Jokinen made it 2-0 39 seconds later with his second goal of the season. It was a bad goal from Buffalo's perspective. Jokinen's long side shot from the right wing was not deflected, and Miller, who seemed to just whiff, was not screened.

Forty-two seconds later, the Sabres cut their deficit to one on Clarke MacArthur's fifth goal past a screened Kolzig.

Give the Lightning credit for not falling into a defensive shell, as all its lines forced the play. The team was rewarded with 25.4 seconds left on Malone's goal. Though the shot from the left wing was a good one, Miller again seemed a second slow and missed the puck. Stamkos' assist gave him his first multipoint game.

The Lightning kept the pressure on in the second period and ended with a 5-2 lead, scoring the first two goals of the period.

Paul Ranger's first goal of the season gave Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead with 6:50 left in the period. Lecavalier, who had just spent two minutes in the penalty box for tripping, started the play by carrying the puck through the neutral zone. He passed to Chris Gratton, who fed a trailing Ranger, who put the puck through Miller's legs.

Stamkos got into the act again 110 seconds later when he blew a snap shot past Miller from the right wing boards. How hard was the shot? Miller, unscreened, was cleanly beaten on the short side.

Tampa Bay couldn't stand the prosperity, though, and gave a goal back with 20 second remaining as Tomas Vanek scored his ninth goal, on the power play, to make it 5-2.

Every goal allowed tempted fate, given Tampa Bay's history at HSBC Arena (Buffalo scored five in the third period in March for a 7-4 win and seven in the second in November 2006 in a 7-2 win).

St. Louis had a chance to put any doubts to bed 10 minutes into the third period, but he hit the post on a three-on-one.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8622.

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