TAMPA – The Buffalo Sabres took the ice for their season finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a collective goal in mind.

“Guys in here all came out with the mindset to battle hard for our guy between the pipes there,” Alex Tuch said. “Honestly, that’s what it came down to.”

Eric Comrie made 16 of his 31 saves during the first period to stave off an early push from the Lighting, then his teammates ensured he was rewarded with a 4-2 victory inside Amalie Arena on Monday.

The start marked Comrie’s first appearance since March 7. The 28-year-old’s season included a stint in Rochester and long stretches between games while he was in Buffalo. His attitude through it all – including setting a veteran example for the team’s two young goaltenders in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Devon Levi – played into the coaching staff’s decision to start him against the Lightning.

“You knew the guys would be excited,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “The love for Coms is pretty thick in that room.”

The support - and the result - meant a lot to Comrie. 

“It felt really good, actually,” he said. “I mean, these guys worked so hard all game long and it was an absolute pleasure to see. It hasn’t been a great year for me, everyone knows that. It’s been difficult. Gone through a lot of ups and downs this year, getting sent down, coming back, not winning for a long time.

“To get that win to prove that my work ethic and my hard work paid off is pretty exciting for myself. Whatever it does for me, it’s awesome. It’s been an honor to play with these guys and it’s been an honor to be a Buffalo Sabre.”

Eric Comrie addresses the media

Dylan Cozens had two goals and an assist for the Sabres, who also received multi-point efforts from Jordan Greenway (1+1) and Jack Quinn (0+2). Zach Benson added his 11th goal of his rookie season.

The Sabres led 1-0 after the opening period on the strength of Cozens’ first goal – scored on a rebound off a shot from Quinn – and the play of their goaltender. Comrie stopped all 16 shots he faced, including one sequence that saw him twice rob Anthony Cirelli – first with a pad stop, then with a sprawling paddle save on the put-back attempt. Later in that same shift, Comrie stopped a spinning attempt from the slot by Victor Hedman.

“He really stopped a lot of great chances and I couldn’t be happier for him to finish the season on that note,” Cozens said. “He battled hard, he battled through a lot of adversity this year, and to see him go out and play like that today, I couldn’t be happier for him.”

The Lightning tied the score when Steven Stamkos capitalized on a turnover and picked the near-side corner from in front of the net early in the second period, but the Sabres found their game from there.

Greenway forced a turnover on the forecheck and delivered a soft pass through two defenders to set up a shorthanded goal for Cozens less than three minutes after Stamkos scored. The lead increased to 3-1 when Greenway buried a rebound on the rush later in the period.

The Lightning threatened once more when Erik Cernak scored on a shot through traffic with 10:21 remaining, but Quinn and Cozens combined to force a turnover and set up Benson’s goal on the very next shift.

The Sabres embraced their goaltender after the win, then presented him with the sword given to the player of the game in the dressing room. Comrie made it a point to enjoy it all, having completed the two-year contract he signed with the Sabres in summer 2022.

Go inside the locker room following the win!

“I think for myself, I was just trying to play, just trying to enjoy it,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last NHL game. You never know when it’s going to be your last time you play for a team, never know when it’s going to be your last time playing with a group of guys.

“So, I just tried to give everything I had tonight, just play for the City of Buffalo, for the team, and just give everything I had. It’s been an absolute pleasure with these guys and it’s sad it has to come to an end.”

Here’s more from the season finale.

1. Tage Thompson left the game with 8:38 remaining in the first period and did not return due to a lower-body injury.

“If we were playing tomorrow, he wouldn’t be,” Granato said. “It’s going to take him a little bit of time with this one. He’s not day to day right now.”

2. Alex Tuch moved to center on a line with JJ Peterka and Jeff Skinner in Thompson’s absence. Tuch has played the wing throughout his tenure in Buffalo, though Granato explained how in-game situations have called for him to take on the responsibilities of a centerman.

“He’s been taking faceoffs,” Granato said. “He’s also had to position in the defensive zone quite often and assume center responsibilities. So, it’s something I believe he can do when called upon even more consistently than a one-game scenario.”

3. Cozens finished the season with three goals in the last three games after scoring an empty netter against Washington on Thursday, but he remained focused on the bigger picture postgame.

“I mean, I’m not going to be thinking about much other than not being in the playoffs,” he said. “So, that’s the biggest thing that’s going to be on my mind. It’s going to be on my mind every day this summer, every time on the ice, every time I’m in the gym. It’s going to be a big summer for a lot of us and we have a lot to prove. We’re hungry.”

Up next

The Sabres players will have their end-of-season interviews with the media during locker cleanout days on Wednesday and Thursday. Granato and general manager Kevyn Adams will have press conferences on Friday beginning at 10 a.m.

Stay tuned to Sabres.com for coverage throughout the week.