Tampa Bay (18-6-3) promised to play its “A” game after losing 2-1 in a shootout at Buffalo on Tuesday. The Lightning did just that; they outshot the Sabres 35-13 and held them without a shot for nearly 22 minutes spanning the first and second periods.
“We wanted to come out strong tonight and really set the tone for the game,” Stamkos said. “The second period was one of the better periods we’ve played this year in regards to puck possession and making smart plays.”
Stamkos’ goal at 4:28 of the second period gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead and was the first of three goals in the period. Alex Killorn sent a pass to Ryan Callahan in the slot that drew in Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber and goalie Jhonas Enroth. Callahan passed back to Stamkos, who fought off Tyson Strachan for the puck and scored into the open net. It was his 16th goal of the season.
Morrow‘s second goal of the season came at 5:39 of the second when he collected a rebound off a shot by Jonathan Drouin and slid the puck under Enroth’s pad.
Garrison scored at 13:40 of the second off a slap shot from the point that hit the top of the post and deflected off of the back of Enroth’s pad to give the Lightning a 4-0 lead.
“It was a lot of fun to watch the second period,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “They have been playing really well and we controlled the puck and really controlled the action.”
Buffalo (9-15-2) lost for the first time in four games.
“We just lost track of what we have to do in order to be successful in some games,” Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. “We stopped hitting, we stopped skating, just doing a lot of pirouettes in center ice and it got away from us in the second period.”
Bishop said, “I thought the guys didn’t let off the pedal at all the whole game. We were shoving pucks down their throat and I’ll bet you some of them are going to go in.”
The Sabres' scoring chances were few and far between, with little action in the offensive zone. Tyler Ennis had a clear path to Bishop late in the second period but was turned away.
“You can’t get in the zone if you’re doing circles and spinning away from everything and not stopping and starting,” Nolan said. “We’re trying to go up the wall with the puck versus trying to flip it in the middle. You’re not going to get in the zone, I don’t care who you play.”
Connolly scored at 18:55 of the third period on a 5-on-3 power play. It was his fifth goal of the season.
The Sabres and Lightning combined for 106 penalty minutes in the third period. Six players were given misconducts, with Victor Hedman, Brian Boyle and Morrow going off for the Lightning, and Nikita Zadorov, Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta for the Sabres.
“We’re all teammates,” Zadorov said. “We are all fighting for each other and helping each other. I think that’s the game and how we have to play it.”
Stamkos said he was pleased with how the Lightning responded to the physical play in the third.
“If teams are going to play like that and kind of test us physically, our guys aren’t going to back down,” Stamkos said. “Obviously the strength of our game is utilizing our speed and skill and playing the game. When things get out of hand like that, it’s obviously because the other team is frustrated and we’ve been doing something right all game.”