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Fast Start Leads to Victory

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres had been hampered by slow starts lately, coming out of the gate like a Shetland Pony. On Thursday night, Buffalo started the game like a thoroughbred racehorse charging to a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at HSBC Arena.

"We went after them and pressed pretty hard with all five guys," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "We really should have had four or five goals in the first period."

Buffalo scored a goal in the opening 20 minutes, held Tampa Bay without a shot on net for the first five minutes of play and closed the period outshooting the Lightning 14-3, as the team moved to 3-2-0 with a shootout loss in the last five games.

"Realistically, a couple days off really helps," said Ruff, whose team hadn't had three consecutive days off since December 5th through December 7th. "We had good legs tonight. Sometimes the schedule will get you and sometimes it will get your opposition."

"We talked before the game that we needed to start the game better than we had in the last few games," said defenseman Henrik Tallinder. "The most important thing was that we were ready to play from the opening faceoff."

Tallinder put forth one of his best efforts of the season at both ends the ice. In more than 18 minutes in playing time, Tallinder scored his third goal in four games and finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-one, despite being paired against Tampa Bay's top line of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards for most of the night.

"I thought Tallinder's all-around game was really strong," said Ruff.

Tallinder now has recorded career-best five goals this season. He had scored just four in his previous three-year in the NHL.

"I've been fed some great passes and have been just trying to fire on net," said Tallinder. "The puck just keeps going in."

Tallinder's recent offensive production can be attributed to his increased confidence. The Stockholm, Sweden native's last three goals have all come on rushes where the defenseman has moved up ice from his position on the blueline.

"As a defenseman, you always think defensively first," said Tallinder. "With some added confidence, you feel you can join the play and see more opportunities."

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller recorded his 10th victory of the season with 21 saves.

"Our guys can really get that puck moving and snap it around," said Miller. "That first period really forced Tampa Bay to come out in the second and regroup."

With 19 seconds remaining in the first period, the Sabres power-play unit gave Buffalo the 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Jochen Hecht, who was parked in front of the net, put Buffalo on the board after redirecting Brian Campbell's slapshot from the point to the left post. The power-play goal was Hecht's first point in four games and snapped a 0-8 drought by Buffalo's man-advantage unit.

Midway through the second, Sabres co-captain Chris Drury fired into the top right corner of the net from the left faceoff dot for Buffalo's second power-play goal of the game. The unit would finish the night 2-7. Drury suffered a mild groin strain at the end of the second and sat out the third period for precautionary purposes. He is listed as day-to-day.

Hopefully, not playing the third will make Drury's injury short-term for us," said Ruff.

Off a turnover by Sabres defenseman Dmitri Kalinin near the goal line in Buffalo's zone, Martin St. Louis bats a rebound from mid-air past Miller. Appearing in the Sabres lineup for the first time in 11 games, Kalinin was the only Sabre to log more than 20 minutes of ice time.

Tallinder regained Buffalo's two-goal lead at 2:15 of the third. On an odd-man rush, Adam Mair slid a no-look pass to the defenseman, who cutting down the slot, for the easy one-timer.
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Period 1
1-0 (19:41): With 19 seconds remaining in the first period, Brian Campbell's slapshot from the point is redirected by Jochen Hecht to put Buffalo on the board. The power-play goal is Hecht's ninth of the season, second on the man advantage and first point in four games. Campbell is credited with the primary assist, while Tim Connolly gets the secondary.

Period 2
2-0 (10:10): Chris Drury snaps a wristshot into the top left corner of the net from the left faceoff dot for Buffalo's second power-play goal of the game. The Sabres man-advantage unit is currently 2-4. The tally is Drury's eighth PP goal of the season and 15th overall.

2-1 (12:23): Off a turnover by Dmitri Kalinin in Buffalo's zone, Martin St. Louis bats the puck out of mid-air off past Ryan Miller to cut Buffalo's lead to one. Miller made the save on Vincent Lecavalier's twirling shot from the shot but the puck deflected into the air in front. Lecavalier and Ryan Craig get the helpers.

Period 3
3-1 (2:15): Henrik Tallinder one-times a Adam Mair's beautiful no-look pass past Sean Burke to increase the Sabres lead to a pair of goals. The marker is Tallinder's career-best fifth goal of the season and the third time he has scored in four games. Paul Gaustad records the secondary assist.
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