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Lightning cool off Sabres with 3-0 win

by Lonnie Herman
TAMPA -- Mathieu Garon has the Tampa Bay Lightning headed in the right direction.

Garon stopped all 21 shots he faced for his first shutout as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night in a 3-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Garon has now allowed just one goal in consecutive starts for the Lightning, after he defeated the Islanders 4-1 on Thursday night.

"The defense in front of me was outstanding all game," Garon said. "I think they made more blocks than I did."

Not quite. The Lightning actually blocked one more shot than Garon did, finishing with 22 blocked shots to bring the team total for the season to 136, first in the NHL in that category.

The game was a tight-checking defensive battle with little advantage going to either club until Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina opened the scoring at 4:51 of the second period with a shot from the right point that weaved through a crowd and found the back of the net. The goal, Kubina's first of the season, ended Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller's shutout streak at just over 122 minutes. Miller had not been scored on since allowing a second-period goal Tuesday night in Montreal.

The Lighting (3-3-2) allowed the Sabres (5-2-0) very little space on the ice or time with the puck as their forwards backchecked relentlessly. The loss was Buffalo's first on the road this season.

"After the first period they started winning more battles and doing a better job at getting pucks to the net and getting the pucks out," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We have to be harder on the puck."

Lightning forward Martin St. Louis widened Tampa Bay's advantage with a highlight-reel goal midway through the final period. The play began with some aggressive backchecking by Brett Connolly, who stole the puck in the Buffalo zone, passed it to Vincent Lecavalier who then sent it over to St. Louis, standing alone in front of the Sabres' goal. St. Louis was patient with the puck as he went eye-to-eye with Miller before flipping the puck over the goalie's shoulder for his third goal of the season.

"I thought I let him go far enough so that he couldn't come back," Miller said. "I kind of knew he was going to do that actually. He made a nice move."

Connolly led the Lightning with seven shots on goal and collected his second assist of the season.

Tampa Bay finished the scoring at 18:33 of the final period with defenseman Victor Hedman sliding the puck into the empty Buffalo net for his second goal of the season. St. Louis picked up an assist, his second point of the game, on the goal.

"That's two big wins," Kubina said. "We were off to a rough start, but we came together as a team and now everyone is playing in the system. We have to stay within the structure and remember it’s only two games."

This was the first of a home-and-home series with the Sabres and the clubs will meet again on Tuesday night in Buffalo.

With another game against the Sabres upcoming, and the team's rough start not far in the past, Lightning coach Guy Boucher was not taking anything for granted.

"Today, we added on a few things that I would rather not share with the world because we play them (Buffalo) again next," Boucher said. "People say we played two good games, but these two games were similar to me and it starts back from the game in Florida (a 7-4 loss on Monday night). What's important was that we didn't panic. We talked about the process and about being very specific on what we needed to improve on. We worked so hard on the details and defense always comes first in our success.

"On every line the leaders stepped up and said, 'OK, that's enough now. It's time to buy into what we used to buy into.'"

Sabres forward Tyler Ennis collided with the goal post in the first period and did not return to the game.
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