TAMPA -- It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but the Buffalo Sabres were able to snap a four-game losing streak and earn the first National Hockey League win for interim coach Ron Rolston as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 Tuesday night at the sold-out Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Tyler Myers broke a 1-1 tie and put Buffalo in the lead for good on the first shot for the Sabres in the final period, just 52 seconds after the faceoff. Myers took a pass from behind the Lightning net and one-timed it behind Mathieu Garon from the right faceoff circle.
"It was great, especially the way it was done," Rolston said of his first coaching win. "The battle level and the competitive nature we had tonight was outstanding. You could just feel it on the bench, how dialed in the guys were. It's great and I'm really happy for our team because we've seen a lot of really good signs and we just needed something to keep us moving in the right direction."
The Lightning entered the game with a League-leading 33 third-period goals, but came up empty in the final period despite firing 12 shots at Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller.
"We got beat by a goaltender," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "We just didn't bury it tonight, plain and simple. We did have the offense; we usually do, but I have to give credit. The goalie on the other side was unbelievable today. It's not like he was lucky; he played great, so I've got to give him credit."
Miller finished with 30 saves and had praise for the team's positional play.
"Today was an improvement; it's going to be incremental," Miller said. "We had a guy high in the zone and didn't give them anything off the rush. That's how you win in the NHL.
"If we're in position and we're smart, then we can win hockey games. It makes it easier for me to read the play and we get the puck back."
The second period was scoreless, although Buffalo gave the Lightning plenty of opportunities to open the game up, giving Tampa Bay three power plays -- including 45 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage -- but the Lightning, beginning the game with the second-best power play on home ice, was unable to capitalize. Tampa Bay finished 0-for-6 with the man advantage and has now scored only four times in its past 41 opportunities.
"Four-for-41 – that isn't good enough; that's not going to win you anything," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We had a lot of looks, great looks, and a lot of good plays going on but that was not good enough to score tonight."
Rolston pointed to the penalty kills in the second period as crucial for the win.
"That was the changing point in the game for us," he said. "In terms of momentum and guys on the bench, to keep that game 1-1 going to the third was huge for us."
Steven Stamkos opened the scoring in the opening period, and it didn't take him long as he recorded his NHL-leading 14th goal just 1:24 into the game as he buried a rebound of Teddy Purcell's shot from the slot. Stamkos has now scored at least a goal in his last six games, the longest goal-streak in the League this season.
But that goal was all the Lightning could manage, despite outshooting Buffalo 31-21.
Buffalo (7-12-1) evened the score midway through the period as a giveaway in the Lightning defensive zone by Victor Hedman led to a wrap-around score by Cody Hodgson, with assists by Andrej Sekera and Vanek. The score was Hodgson's eighth of the season.
"I liked the way we got down early and our guys came right back and got a goal," Rolston said. "That's a good sign for a hockey team. The guys had bounce-back to them."
The Lightning (9-9-1) had several additional good scoring opportunities in the first but squandered them with poor passing and missed shots, including Benoit Poliot's wrister that hit the crossbar.
"We had to keep going," Hodgson said. "We couldn't afford to sit back and let them come at us, because they way the games have been going, we've been getting bad bounces at the end of the game. We made sure to keep pushing."
Lightning defenseman Sami Salo only skated 1: 25 in the second period before leaving with a lower-body injury. He did not return in the final period.
"Tough day," Boucher said of Salo's injury. "We lost a defenseman to a lower-body injury, so it's a tough day. I have no clue how long he will be out. All I know is we missed him for the rest of the game and he makes a difference in our lineup. Hopefully, it won't be for long."
Although they had an opportunity to take over first place in the Southeast Division, the loss kept Tampa Bay tied with Carolina. And an opportunity squandered was not lost on Boucher.
"We wanted this game badly and we didn't do enough to win," Boucher said. "We just didn't bury the chances. Every time tonight when we had the opportunity to hurt them, it didn't happen."