LIGHTNING (10-7-2) at SABRES (8-10-3)
TV: SUN (HD), MSG-B (HD)
Tampa Bay 4-5-1; Buffalo 5-4-1
First of four meetings this season. Tampa Bay doesn't have fond memories of Buffalo from the 2009-10 campaign, as the Sabres won all four meetings and outscored the Lightning 21-8 in the process. Jason Pominville
recorded the hat trick in a 6-2 win on March 18 and Derek Roy
followed with one of his own in a 7-1 drubbing on March 27.
What does Tampa Bay -- and specifically Steven Stamkos
-- do for an encore after playing and winning the wildest game the NHL has seen this season? Stamkos contributed a hat trick and an assist to Thursday night's 8-7 win in Philadelphia, giving him a League-best 19 goals in 19 games. He's also first with 34 points and looking virtually unstoppable.
On a night dominated by offense it was a checking-line center, Nate Thompson
, who provided the winning goal by Tampa Bay. It was his seventh in 137 career NHL games. The Lightning rallied three different times from two-goal deficits -- 2-0, 5-3 and 7-5 -- and didn't lead until Thompson snapped a 7-7 tie at 5:19 of the third period. Martin St. Louis
finished with a career-best 5 assists and Mike Smith picked up the victory in relief of Dan Ellis as both teams ended up pulling their starting goalies early.
"It was crazy. I've never been involved in anything like this at any level," Stamkos said. "It's fun to be a part of it and it's fun to contribute, but at the end of the day, we wanted to win this game."
Only two weeks ago, Buffalo was languishing in last place in the Northeast Division and next-to-last in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres are 5-1-1 since, including Friday night's 4-2 win over the Kings which lifted them into a four-way tie for eighth in the East. They rallied for three unanswered goals, with Thomas Vanek
tying the score on the power play in the latter stages of the second period and Tim Connolly connecting on another man advantage early in the third. Ryan Miller
turned aside 34 shots.
"We just wanted to work hard, be available to each other and get pucks to the net," said Connolly, who snapped a nine-game goal drought. "A lot of the games are decided by special teams. Ours are getting better."
In addition to Stamkos, who has been held without a point in only two games this season, St. Louis now has 3 goals and 10 assists during a seven-game points streak for the Lightning. Thompson and defenseman Brett Clark
each have goals in consecutive games.
has 3 goals and 7 assists during a seven-game points streak for the Sabres. Vanek has 3 goals and 6 assists during a six-game points streak. Miller has won three of his four starts since returning to action.
Tampa Bay defensemen Matt Smaby (ankle) and Randy Jones (lower body) are day-to-day, while forwards Vincent Lecavalier
(hand) and Simon Gagne (neck) are on injured reserve. Forward Mattias Ritola
is serving the second of a two-game suspension for a hit from behind in Wednesday's game against the New York Islanders. … Buffalo forward Drew Stafford
(shoulder) is on injured reserve.
Fourteen different players had at least one point for the Lightning against the Flyers. In addition to St. Louis and Stamkos, Thompson (1-1-2), Teddy Purcell
(0-2-2) and Victor Hedman
(0-2-2) had multi-point nights. … Sabres captain Craig Rivet is set to play in his 900th NHL game -- he returned to the lineup Friday after missing five games due to food poisoning.
Buffalo will be after its fourth-straight home win after beginning the season 0-6-1 at HSBC Arena. Friday marked the beginning of a four-game homestand which will also feature visits from Pittsburgh and Toronto.