After a moving and classy tribute to kick off Hockey Fights Cancer night, the Tampa Bay Lightning used a third period flurry to down the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Monday night.
Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring 13 seconds in, beating Carter Hutton to give the Lightning an early 1-0 lead. It was the fourth fastest goal scored in franchise history.
Unfortunately, that lead didn’t hold up for long, as Sam Reinhart picked up a Andrei Vasilevskiy rebound and deposited it behind the Lightning netminder to tie things at one.
That was one of two pucks to get behind the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, who has looked fairly sharp lately after a shaky start to this season.
The middle frame consisted of sloppy and undisciplined play from both teams. A careless turnover by defenseman Mikhail Sergachev started things, giving Jimmy Vesey a breakaway. He didn’t miss, and the Sabres took a slim 2-1 lead.
On their heels and trailing in the game, Kucherov took a high-sticking penalty to add to the Sabres momentum. However, Vasilevskiy made a number of big stops to keep the Lightning within striking distance.
That proved to be huge, with the Bolts given an opportunity on the power play mere minutes later. They didn’t waste this chance, as Sergachev atoned for his earlier mistake by firing the puck past a screened Hutton to tie the game at two apiece.
Not long after that, the Lightning’s fourth line of Patrick Maroon, Cedric Paquette and Yanni Gourde went to work. Maroon won a puck battle along the boards and then took a shot on Hutton. Gourde got a piece of it, changing the trajectory enough to beat the Sabres netminder. That gave the Bolts a 3-2 lead.
The Sabres had plenty of time to tie things up, as the Lightning gifted them two power plays to end the second period. They struggled to hit the target though, thanks in large part to a penalty kill that’s recently gotten hot and a suddenly dialed-in Vasilevskiy.
Entering the final 20 minutes, the Lightning knew they needed to play good defense and shoot the puck when the opportunity arose.
They did exactly that, taking control of the game by scoring two shorthanded goals 49 seconds apart to go from a narrow 3-2 lead to a more commanding 5-2 lead. Those goals were scored by Paquette and Ondrej Palat.
The Lightning have now won three straight and, at 26 points, sit in a tie for fourth place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the Montreal Canadiens and three points back of the second place Florida Panthers with a number of games in hand.
This current home stand concludes Wednesday night, Nov. 27, as the Lightning welcome the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to Amalie Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm EST.