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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Mike Smith made 29 saves to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

Smith, in his first start since Nov. 12, helped the Lightning (11-7-2) to their third straight victory, tying a season high. He sparkled in the third period by turning aside all 12 shots he faced.

Teddy Purcell and Adam Hall scored for Tampa Bay, which defeated Philadelphia 8-7 on Thursday night in the highest scoring game in the NHL in almost three years. ...more.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was the turning point in the game.  With just over nine minutes gone in the second period, Tampa Bay cleared the puck out of its own zone down the middle of the ice and Patrick Lalime was forced to play it.  His attempt to slide the puck to Jordan Leopold was intercepted by Lightning forward Adam Hall.  Hall’s initial shot was stopped by Lalime, but Hall was able to backhand the rebound past the sprawling goaltender and into the net.  The goal gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead and ended up being the final goal of the game.

Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith turned aside 29 of the 30 shots he faced, including one last stop on a Derek Roy slap shot in the final seconds of the game.  Smith was also active around his net throughout the game, ranging far from the goal and clearing the puck down the ice on several occasions.  Smith, who picked up a win in relief of Dan Ellis in his team’s 8-7 victory over Philadelphia on Thursday, was making his first start in eight days and improved to 6-3-0 on the season.

It’s a mistake that cost the game. I made the wrong play there…. It was just a bad pass, a mistake. - Patrick Lalime on Tampa Bay’s game-winning goal

- Patrick Lalime got the start in goal for the Sabres with Ryan Miller out of the lineup due to a lower body injury.  Jhonas Enroth was recalled from Portland (AHL) on Saturday and served as Lalime’s backup.  Following the game, Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff said Miller was experiencing tenderness in his groin, but added that it was “supposed to be very mild.”

- Thomas Vanek opened the scoring with his eighth goal of the season to extend his point streak to a career-high seven games.  During the seven-game streak, Vanek has registered 10 points on four goals and six assists.

- In 21 career games versus the Lightning, Vanek has scored 17 goals.

- The loss snapped Buffalo’s three game home winning streak and dropped them to 5-2-1 over the last eight games.

- Tim Connolly appeared to score a goal in the second period, but it was waved off when the officials ruled that Jason Pominville made a hand pass to Connolly.  

- The Sabres were able to keep the NHL’s leading point producer, Steven Stamkos, off the scoresheet.  Stamkos entered the game riding a seven-game point streak, during which he had registered nine goals and five assists.  Martin St. Louis had his seven-game point streak snapped.

- Stamkos and St. Louis were not the only players in the game who saw a seven-game point streak come to an end.  Derek Roy, Buffalo’s leading scorer, had scored at least a point in seven straight prior to tonight.  

-  Miller joined defensemen Chris Butler and Mike Weber as Buffalo’s scratches while defensemen Mathieu Roy and Matt Smaby and forwards Mattias Ritola and Johan Harju were Tampa Bay’s scratches.

After playing three games in the last four nights, the Sabres will not play again until Wednesday when they host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Entering play on Saturday, Crosby’s 33 points trailed only Stamkos on the NHL leader board.  Last season, the Sabres went 1-2-1 against the Penguins.  The most recent meeting in Buffalo between the teams took place on Dec. 29, 2009 and saw the Sabres rally from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3.  Wednesday’s game will make the third of a four-game homestand for the Sabres.

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