The Tampa Bay Lightning are making a playoff push, and it's no surprise that Steven Stamkos is leading the charge.
Stamkos had a goal and assist, and the resurgent Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 at the First Niagara Center on Saturday night for their seventh win in 10 games.
Mathieu Garon made 26 saves, and Steve Downie also scored during the Lightning's two-goal second period. Tampa Bay (24-24-6) is on a 7-1-2 roll and has earned at least a point in a season-high four straight road games (3-0-1).
Stamkos gave the credit to Garon, who improved to 6-0-2 in his past eight starts -- a stretch in which he's allowed 19 goals.
"He was unbelievable. He's a big part of why we won," Stamkos said. "We got lucky with the crossbar, but we hit one, as well. It was two big points."
Jason Pominville scored Buffalo's lone goal 7:07 into the third period in a game in which the Sabres came out flat while playing for the third time in four nights. The Sabres managed 13 shots through two periods and 27 overall.
Buffalo failed to earn a point for the first time in seven games (5-1-1), and lost in regulation at home for the first time in 11 (6-1-4), dating to a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 10.
The Sabres (24-25-6) failed to build off the momentum of a 3-2 shootout victory over Dallas on Friday, when they rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit.
Stamkos played a role in both Lightning goals and extended his point streak to six games -- a stretch in which he has 5 goals and 5 assists.
He had an assist on Downie's opening goal 7:31 into the second period. After Ryan Miller got a pad out to stop Stamkos' shot from the right circle, defenseman Victor Hedman kept the puck in and got a weak shot on net.
Downie stopped the puck at the top of the crease before goalie Ryan Miller could sweep it away, and then spun around and scored into the open right side.
Stamkos then scored his NHL-leading 37th goal less than six minutes later by completing a 2-on-1 break. He was set up by Teddy Purcell, who capitalized on a Sabres turnover in the neutral zone. Driving up the right wing, Purcell fed a pass across to Stamkos, who got of a one-timer as he was falling and beat Miller just inside the left post.
"That's what killed us at the beginning of the year," Stamkos said of a team that was 6-16-3 away from Tampa Bay through Jan. 13. "We know how well we play at home. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could win on the road, as well."
A lack of offense has hurt Buffalo, which has scored two goals or fewer in regulation 15 times in 21 games.
The Sabres had their chances in the third period only to be foiled by Garon, whose best save came with just under 5 minutes left. He slid across the crease in time to get his pad and stick down to stop Pominville's one-timer from the right circle.
Garon was also fortunate after Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff had the goalie beat with a blast from the top of the right circle, but the puck hit the post with a minute remaining.
"That's probably as good of a look as you can have," Ehrhoff said of his shot. "I was going high blocker, and it missed by an inch."
Garon had little chance on Pominville's goal, which came on a broken play. After Buffalo's Thomas Vanek had the puck poked off his stick as he attempted to split two defenders, Pominville got a shot off from the high slot that sneaked in through a crowd in front.
"We played one period, but one period is not good enough," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I was glad to see at least we came out in the third with some determination to try to make a difference."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.