TAMPA — Ben Bishop was disappointed in himself after Thursday's 5-3 loss to Dallas.
The Lightning had rallied from a three-goal deficit to pull within one in the third period. That's when Bishop gave up what he labeled a bad goal to seal the defeat, something very unusual for the Lightning's backbone and MVP.
But the goalie more than made up for it Saturday, nearly single-handedly lifting the Lightning to a 2-1 win over the Sabres at Amalie Arena in front of 19,092. In doing so, Bishop set the franchise record for most wins with 84, surpassing 2004 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
"He was clearly the best player on the ice," coach Jon Cooper said. "We don't win without him."
The Lightning (4-2-0) didn't deserve to win this one, and it felt fortunate to escape with two points. Vladislav Namestnikov's breakaway goal tied it late in the second, and Alex Killorn's power-play goal with four minutes to go capped the comeback.
But had Bishop not bailed out the Lightning, it was staring at a third straight loss heading into a difficult four-game road trip through the Central Division. Tampa Bay didn't lose three straight at all during the regular season last year.
"It was big," Bishop said. "I wasn't happy with the way I played against Dallas, can't really expect that from yourself at home in front of these fans. But it's a big-bounce back game for me and the team."
The beginning was brutal for Tampa Bay, which surprisingly came out flat and sloppy, getting outshot 16-3 in the first period. "It was embarrassing," Killorn said. "We've got to be tougher to play against in our rink."
The Sabres went up 1-0 just three minutes in, when an uncharacteristic giveaway by Valtteri Filppula in front led to a Sam Reinhart goal. "I've got to make that play," Filppula said. "It was a bad pass."
Filppula wasn't alone. Bad play was a team effort. "It was everything, all three zones," Cooper said. "(The Sabres) outhit us, (out)worked us, (out)skated us, (out)competed us and (out)coached us."
Cooper, saying he didn't want the second and third periods to look anything like the first, massively reshuffled the lines. Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin, a combo that dazzled in the first five games, were split up. So were the Triplets, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.
Drouin, who entered Saturday as the team's leading scorer with six points, didn't have his best game, making several turnovers. He had just one shift in the final 25 minutes, playing 11:59 overall.
"As a staff, we put the guys out there we thought at this moment was going to help us win the game, and they did," Cooper said.
Namestnikov was one of the few bright spots up front, Cooper said, and his goal was another example of his soaring confidence. "He's been fighting and fighting and fighting to find a spot in the lineup," Cooper said. "He's getting his chance here and surely making the best of it."
The much-maligned special teams came through, the penalty kill pitching a shutout (3-for-3) and power play picking up a timely tally. But in the end, Bishop stole the show — and the game — making a huge stop on Ryan O'Reilly from up close with three minutes to go.
"Bish was great," Filppula said. "He basically gave us the win."
First Period—1, Buffalo, Reinhart 1 (Ennis), 2:52. Penalties—Moulson, Buf (tripping), 16:09.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 2, 13:41. Penalties—Eichel, Buf (tripping), 2:22; Drouin, TB (tripping), 4:21; Foligno, Buf (roughing), 10:27; Carle, TB (delay of game), 19:44.
Third Period—3, Tampa Bay, Killorn 1 (T.Johnson, Palat), 16:03 (pp). Penalties—Coburn, TB (holding stick), 10:45; Franson, Buf (interference), 14:23. Shots on Goal—Buffalo 16-7-9—32. Tampa Bay 3-12-7—22. Power-play opportunities—Buffalo 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Buffalo, C.Johnson 1-4-0 (22 shots-20 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 4-2-0 (32-31).