The Buffalo Sabres may have the fewest points in the NHL, but their low ranking in the standings doesn’t mean that their players aren’t going to work hard to win games (contrary to the conspiracy “tanker” theorists). For the first half of the first period, the Lightning were not able to match Buffalo’s urgency. To that point, the Lightning were being outshot, 10-6, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy had made several difficult saves to keep the game scoreless.
But in the closing minutes of the first period, the Lightning’s urgency level and game execution improved. With 3:23 left in the period, Steven Stamkos buried a shot from the right circle to give the Lightning a 1-0. From that point until the end of the second period, the Lightning thoroughly dominated play.
Early in the second, the Bolts received a five-on-three power play and they cashed in on both ends, extending their lead to 3-0. The power play has produced six goals in the last five games – four in the last three contests. It’s a good sign heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
Former Lightning goalie Anders Lindback was making his Sabres debut. As the second period progressed, he kept the deficit at three with a number of fine saves. At one point, the Lightning were outshooting the Sabres, 21-10, meaning they had recorded 15 unanswered shots. Buffalo only mustered four second period shots and trailed, 3-0, after 40 minutes.
The Lightning were not as crisp in the third period. As was the case at the start of the game, the Sabres dictated much of the play. But despite the extended stretch in which he wasn’t seeing many shots, Vasilevskiy stayed sharp – and in the third, he saw plenty of action. He stopped 14 third period Buffalo attempts, including six shots during two unsuccessful Sabres power play chances. He finished with 28 saves to post his first NHL shutout.
The Lightning played very well from the late stages of the first through the second. But they weren’t at their sharpest early in the game – or in the third. They’ll seek a more complete performance Thursday against Toronto, another team not in the playoff mix.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Stamkos’ first period goal, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. 28 saves in first NHL shutout.
2.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. GWG. Seven shots.
3.Alex Killorn – Lightning. Assist. Team-high 21:09 TOI.