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Eichel, Franson help Sabres defeat Lightning

by Corey Long /

TAMPA -- Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist in the Buffalo Sabres' 4-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.

Buffalo (7-8-0) earned its first victory in four tries against Tampa Bay to avoid the season sweep. Cody Franson, Marcus Foligno and Rasmus Ristolainen also scored for the Sabres, who have won four of their past five games.

"It's huge for us. … We've been on the cusp of beating [the Lightning] a few times and haven't been able to put them away," Eichel said. "It's great to beat them and build some confidence off of this game."

Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay (7-8-2), which has lost three straight games at home.

Eichel scored his sixth goal on a power play at 5:57 of the first period. The rookie center one-timed a cross-ice pass from Franson past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy high on the stick side for the 1-0 Sabres lead.

"We had a great chance right before, and their goalie makes a great save; it was kind of a scramble," Eichel said. "[Franson] makes a good play, freezes their goalie, freezes all their killers. ... I tried to put it on net and I think it hit their goalie and went in. We've had similar situations in the first period where we've had a lot of chances and hadn't been able to put one home. Being able to build off a lead and play with a lead was nice."

The Lightning answered 52 seconds into the second period on Stamkos' eighth goal. Nikita Kucherov found Stamkos open in the left circle, and the Lightning captain sent a one-timer under the stick of Sabres goalie Chad Johnson to make it 1-1.

"At practice, we focused on some things and talked about some things we weren't doing that made us successful last year," Stamkos said. "And for the most part, I thought we did most of that tonight; it just still is not going in. Their goalie probably made the save of the last five, maybe ten years on [Kucherov]."

Among Johnson's 30 saves was a diving glove stop against Kucherov at 2:54 of the second period on what looked like a sure goal. After Alex Killorn skated behind the Buffalo net from the left wing and centered the puck to Kucherov streaking down the right wing, Johnson dove across the goal crease to make the save.

Buffalo took a 2-1 lead when Franson's wrist shot deflected off the crossbar and into the net 48 seconds after Stamkos tied it.

The Sabres added to their lead at 5:24 of the third period when Foligno took a wrist shot from the top of left circle that deflected off Vasilevskiy's glove and into the net to make it 3-1.

"Just get pucks on the net," Foligno said. "I don't know if he didn't check it more … but it hit his glove and went in top shelf. I'll take it. We've played this team four times now, and it was great to get off to a good start in the first period. I think we kind of owed ourselves these two points."

Ristolainen scored an empty-net goal with 36 seconds remaining.

"This is where you dig a little deeper," Stamkos said. "There's no sense in getting frustrated or start feeling sorry for ourselves. We have a group that can get through something like this and hopefully learn from it and get better. That's what we're looking to do."

The Sabres were 4-for-5 on the penalty kill.

"We knew special teams was going to be a big factor in the game," Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma said. "I thought our penalty kill was outstanding against a good team, and [Johnson] was a huge part of that. He had to make a couple of one-timer saves, and I thought he was strong the whole way through."

Vasilevskiy made 24 saves. It was the first loss to the Sabres in his NHL career (3-1-0).

"We need to stick to our game plan and keep working," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "Get pucks there, get bodies there. I thought we did a little more in the third, got some more opportunities, but that's just been the message the whole time."

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