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game recap

Ben Bishop wins return to Lightning

Goalie makes 24 saves to defeat Sabres in first game since Dec. 20

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- Ben Bishop made 24 saves for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

Bishop was making his first start since injuring his groin on Dec. 20. He missed nine games.

"It felt great, it's nice to get those competitive juices going in front of these fans," Bishop said. "Obviously two points makes it a lot better."

 

WATCH: All Sabres vs. Lightning highlights

 

Bishop is 10-10-2 this season.

"Give Buffalo credit, they pushed in the third and we bent a little but we didn't break," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Bishop had a lot to do with that. The saves he made, the way he played the puck, how many pucks he stopped behind the net, it just helped our defense. It was good to have him back."

Ondrej Palat scored twice and had an assist, and Nikita Kucherov and Anton Stralman scored for the Lightning (20-19-4).

Matt Moulson and Evander Kane scored for the Sabres (16-16-9). Anders Nilsson made 25 saves.

The Sabres took a 1-0 lead at 2:58 of the first period when Moulson converted a 2-on-1 after Taylor Fedun forced a turnover. The goal came on the Sabres' first shot.

"Yeah, it would've been nice to start with a little easier one," Bishop said. "Not much you can do, guy made a pretty good shot. It was kind of a fluky play, bounced a couple of times. I wasn't too worried about it. It was nice to get a couple saves after that."

Palat tied the game 1-1 at 5:37. On a 5-on-3 power play, Tyler Johnson made a cross-ice pass to the slot, where Palat beat Nilsson.

The Lightning took a 2-1 lead at 5:18 of the second period on Palat's second goal. Nikita Nesterov put a shot on goal, and Palat controlled the rebound around the crease.

"On the first goal I had an open net and [Johnson] made a nice play," Palat said. "The second, again, [Nesterov] made a nice play and the puck just found me."

Kucherov gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead at 12:58 when Victor Hedman sent a pass from the point to the slot.

Kane made it 3-2 at 10:30 of the third period when he scored from the hash mark off a cross-ice pass from Jack Eichel after Bishop lost his stick trying to clear the puck out of the crease.

"I thought we started working better in the third period," Kane said. "Being aggressive. Not giving them any breakouts. That's the way we have to play. We can't sit back because they will take it to us."

Stralman scored an empty-net goal with 18 seconds remaining.

"We didn't do a good job accepting their speed and we just couldn't get anything going on our forecheck," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "When we got the puck, we weren't really moving."

 

Goal of the game

Hedman set up Kucherov's goal in the second period with a diagonal pass through traffic.

Video: BUF@TBL: Hedman finds Kucherov to extend Bolts' lead

 

Save of the game

Nilsson denied Palat a chance at a hat trick when he stopped the forward on a breakaway at 12:08 of the third period.

Video: BUF@TBL: Nilsson shuts the door on Palat's breakaway

 

 
Unsung performance of the game

Brian Boyle had an assist and led the Lightning with four hits in his first game since Dec. 31. He also won both of his faceoffs.

 

Highlight of the game

Bishop made a crucial save on Kane with 5:19 remaining in the game. The Lightning defense tried to clear the puck but it took a bad bounce off the boards. Kane had a clear look in front of the net but Bishop made a chest save on the backhand shot.

 

They said it

"It's the same trend. We had a tough two periods to start the game. We turned it up in the third [period] and just too late. We can't keep relying on that." -- Sabres forward Brian Gionta

 

"We've got to win. We've got to win games. We want to win every game, but it's a tough league. There's a team on the other end too, but for us it's about playing through our structure and playing to the way that makes us successful. Today was a step in the right direction." -- Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman

 

Need to know

Kucherov scored his 85th goal to pass Rob Zamuner for 10th place on the Lightning's all-time list. … Bishop is 10-0-1 against the Sabres.

 

What's next

Sabres: At the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG-B, NHL.TV)

Lightning: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday (8 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, SUN, FS-O, NHL.TV)

Video: Palat, Bishop propel Lightning past Sabres, 4-2

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