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Sabres cruise to 7-3 win over Bolts

by Lonnie Herman
TAMPA -- If it appeared at times as if the Buffalo Sabres were playing a team of minor leaguers as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 Monday night, it's because they basically were.

The Lightning, ripped by injuries to their regulars, sent out a lineup that included seven skaters and a goaltender that had recently graced American Hockey League ice. Despite a valiant effort, the results were predictable.

"That's what you get," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "The guys tried hard and the American League guys are doing everything they can and our top guys have been pushing for so long, it's tough to ask for a perfect game. You can't put guys in slots they have never been and expect that they'll go out there and play like (Nate) Thompson or (Adam) Hall or (Vincent) Lecavalier."

But the way the Sabres skated Monday night, it might not have mattered who they were facing. Jason Pominville and Marcus Foligno each got two goals and Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis each recorded two assists as Buffalo collected goals from five different skaters and Ryan Miller stopped 23 of 26 shots for his 26th win of the season.

Pominville's two goals gave him 27 on the season. He leads the Sabres in that category. His first, on the power play at 15:50 of the opening period, came off a give-and-go with Hodgson.

"It was a good give-and-go," Pominville said. "He put it right in my wheelhouse and I just had to shoot it. We're slowly getting to where we want to be and what's nice is to see a lot of guys getting on the score- sheet and be rewarded for their hard work and their play."

No one is reaping rewards right now for Buffalo more than Foligno. The rookie had his second two-goal game and now has 5 goals and 2 assists in five games since joining Buffalo on March 10.

Foligno collected his first of the game 1:09 into the second period and added his second via the power play at 16:22.

"I never thought that I'd have this many goals in this many games," Foligno said. "It's what happens when you play with two good players. I know I can get to the paint and I have confidence in my game right now. I want to keep doing this and it's fun right now, so I don't want to stop it."

The win allowed Buffalo to keep pace with the Washington Capitals, who also won Monday night in Detroit. The Capitals maintained a two-point advantage over Buffalo in the battle for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres have gone 10-2-3 in their last 15 games.

Drew Stafford opened the scoring for Buffalo 11:31 into the opening period when he deflected a shot by Christian Ehrhoff for his 15th goal of the season. In addition to Foligno's and Pominville's two goals each, the Sabres picked up second-period scores from Corey Tropp and Brad Boyes.

"Basically, every line got on the board for us," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "You can look at the scoresheet tonight and almost everybody is on it. It's a nice night to have."

Buffalo (34-29-10) chased Lightning starter Dustin Tokarski at midway through the second period after he allowed four goals on 15 shots. It was the second consecutive start in which Tokarski was pulled. Dwayne Roloson stopped 20 of 23 shots in relief.

The Lightning got on the scoreboard with two goals of their own in the second period. Bruno Gervais, who made his first appearance in six games, slapped a cross-ice pass from Teddy Purcell for his fifth goal of the season, the most by any Lightning defenseman. Trevor Smith later added his first goal as a member of the Lightning off a scramble in front of Miller.

Ryan Malone added the third Lightning score when he tipped a shot from the high slot by Eric Brewer past Miller in the final period. It was Malone's 14th goal of the season and he also added an assist on Smith's score.

With the loss, Tampa Bay (32-33-7) fell to 1-4 with two games remaining on its current seven-game homestand. The Lightning have lost their last three while being outscored 13-4, and they appear ready to turn their attention to the future.

"It's a grooming process right now, that's what it is," Boucher said. "Let's not kid ourselves, let's say it like it is. We can't ask guys that are here to be groomed to play like guys that have been groomed for the last 10 years. It's a process. It's going to pay off, because it always does. Everything matters."

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