This victory in front of the home fans was a nice way for the Lightning to wrap up their season. Here are some observations from the 4-2 triumph.
- Even though the Lightning were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday, they still played a spirited game in the season finale. They posted 37 shots on goal, enjoyed a decisive advantage in puck possession and scoring chances, and were deserving of the victory.
- If not for the goaltending of Buffalo's Linus Ullmark, who was making his first NHL appearance since last season, this game would have been a blowout. Ullmark faced upwards of 15 or 20 scoring chances and put on an outstanding show. He nearly stole this game for the Sabres.
- Jonathan Drouin was snake-bitten on Sunday. He was the most dangerous Lightning player, but Ullmark single-handedly kept Drouin off the board. Drouin posted six shots - all great scoring chances - but Ullmark stopped them all.
- Brayden Point had two goals, including the game-winner with 1:24 remaining. That one deflected into the Buffalo net off defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Some puck-luck for Point, who finished the season with 18 goals. Puck-luck was not on his side at the start of the season, however, as he (like Drouin in this game) was severely snake-bitten. He had so many chances to score early on, but goalies kept making incredible saves. Or he'd hit the post. Despite getting multiple chances every night, it took 12 games for him to score his first and, at the time of his late December injury, he had three goals. So after returning from injury on January 31, he posted 15 goals in his final 32 games.
- Victor Hedman entered this game with 299 career points. He had 70 of those points this season, good for third place among NHL defenseman. One behind his good friend Erik Karlsson. Hedman earned his 300th point when he assisted on Point's second period goal. Then, with one second remaining, he ripped a shot from his own end into Buffalo's empty net. That gave him 72 points, one more than Karlsson.
The Lightning made a furious push in the regular season's final two months. They went 20-6-4 in their last 30 games. But they ended up missing the playoffs by, as it turned out, one point.
I'll have a season retrospective coming in the next week or so. For now, thanks to the fans for their incredible support of the team - through thick and thin this season.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Brayden Point - Lightning. Two goals.
- Linus Ullmark - Sabres. 33 saves.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 26 saves.