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Mishkin's Extra Shift: Bolts battle for hard-fought victory

by Dave Mishkin / Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning had the better of the play in the first period, though the team felt it could have shot the puck more often.  The Bolts had eight period shots, the same as the Sabres, and scored the game’s first goal on a Valtteri Filppula rebound tally at 3:51.  But the Bolts couldn’t add to the lead during two first period power play chances.  Then, in the opening minute of the second, they surrendered a shorthanded goal to Cody McCormick.  By the eight-minute mark of the period, the Lightning were outshooting the Sabres, 13-11.  From that point on, though, the Lightning took absolute control of the game.  They held the puck in the Buffalo zone for minutes at a time and continually put pucks on net.  But Neuvirth was unbeatable in the period.  He stopped a Nikita Kucherov breakaway, in-alone chances for Ryan Callahan and Brett Connolly and a point-blank look for Steven Stamkos.  In all, the Bolts fired a franchise-record 27 shots in the period (including 22 in the final 12 minutes of the frame).  Because of Neuvirth’s netminding, though, the score remained tied after two.

Much of the third period followed the same script, with the Lightning dominating puck possession, the Sabres unable to move the puck into the Tampa Bay zone and Neuvirth stopping all the shots that came his way.  Then, with 8:30 remaining, the Sabres went on the power play.  They generated a couple of dangerous looks during the man advantage (and also yielded an unsuccessful shorthanded breakaway to Cedric Paquette), but the Lightning survived the kill.

Finally, the Lightning regained the lead – and it took a perfectly-executed play.  From behind the Tampa Bay net, Victor Hedman wrapped the puck around the boards.  Alex Killorn deflected the puck past the pinching Buffalo defenseman.  The deflection went right to Jonathan Drouin, who cruised into the Buffalo zone on a two-on-one with Stamkos.  Drouin slid the puck to Stamkos, who roofed the shot into the top of the net, over a sprawling Neuvirth.   The Lightning closed out the final 5:18 and earned their third straight win.

Sometimes an opposing goalie can foil a team that is otherwise controlling a game.  Thanks to the late goal from Stamkos, the Lightning escaped that scenario.

Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:

Multiple fantastic Neuvirth saves throughout the game, keeping the Sabres in the game.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:

1.    Michal Neuvirth – Sabres. 45 saves.

2.    Ryan Callahan – Lightning. Assist.  Strong on the puck all game.

3.    Alex Killorn – Lightning. Assist.  Also strong on the puck all game.
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