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Pominville nets overtime winner as Sabres top first-place Lightning

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

TAMPA - "Who's got it in you?"

Jason Pominville said that was the message from coach Phil Housley throughout the Buffalo Sabres game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at Amalie Arena. 

It turns out Pominville had it in him as he netted the game-winning goal in overtime as part of a two-point night to give the Sabres a 2-1 victory over the first-place Lightning. 

Video: BUF@TBL: Pominville scores on power play in OT

The power-play marker at 1:26 of the extra period came on his seventh shot of the game and broke a 20-game goal drought for the 35-year-old wing. The goal also finally came on a night where he had several good scoring chances that just didn't find the back of the net.

"I was definitely getting a little frustrated, but I don't want to show my emotions. I don't want to let my teammates know. But, yeah, it was starting to get to me," he said. "I was getting looks and wasn't able to find a way to put them in. It was nice to have a chance to get out there and pull through for the guys."

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Overtime goals, @BuffaloSabres franchise history:t-1. Derek Roy: 6t-1. Thomas Vanek: 6t-3. Daniel Briere: 5t-3. Jason Pominville: 5#NHLStats #BUFvsTBL

Pominville, who has been serving as an alternate captain since Jack Eichel went down with an ankle injury earlier in the month, has made sure that even though the points weren't coming, he's been helping the team in other ways.

"I know I can contribute offensively. I've always done it but I was brought in probably for that reason and for other reasons. The offense probably wasn't the only thing. So I want to make sure I bring the other things to the table as well," he said. 

"But to be able to contribute is always nice. Definitely nice to get a winner, but I don't want to only focus on offense. I want to bring the other things, whether it's habits, practice, try to change the culture and get moving in the right direction as a team and as an organization. Even though I wasn't producing, I wanted to stick to the other things I did well."

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: "It's nice to get the win - everybody pushed in the same direction." More from Jason Pominville with @dan_dunleavy on the @Lexus Postgame Show. #BUFvsTBL

Evan Rodrigues tied the game for Buffalo with 8:13 remaining in regulation, wristing in a shot from the left wing off a pass from Pominville with Scott Wilson setting up a screen. Rodrigues now has six goals on the year and has scored in back-to-back games.

To earn the two points, Rodrigues said that it came as part of a group effort.

"I think we had all 20 guys pulling in the right direction. We didn't have anyone cheating on the wrong side of the puck. Everyone was staying on the D side of the puck, making sure the puck got out first and we stuck with our game plan," he said. 

"As the game wore on, we didn't try cheating for offense. We didn't have guys blowing the zone or anything. We all stuck to the defensive side of the puck and when you do that, you wear teams down, you finally get rewarded."

Solid defensively

Video: Postgame: HOUSLEY

Chad Johnson has stopped 78 of 82 shots faced in his last three road games (.951), and has earned wins in each of them. He made 21 saves on Wednesday to improve his record to 6-10-3. 

While the Lightning were without the NHL's leading scorer Nikita Kucherov due to injury, the Sabres still held their other top players like Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson off the scoresheet.  

The Sabres entered the first intermission down 1-0 after Cory Conacher scored with 1:57 left in the first period. The play was set up by Yanni Gourde, who sent a pass from the halfwall to the point. There, Dan Girardi stepped in over the blue line and rocketed a shot towards the net. Conacher tipped it up into Johnson and then knocked in his own rebound. 

"The team's playing really well in front of me and I think that's why you're seeing the results. We're not giving up 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s," Johnson said. "They're not getting really great Grade As all the time or more than maybe one or two a game."

That's not to say there weren't moments of real excitement. Midway through the second period, the goaltenders took centerstage. 

First, Johnson made two great saves in tight on Adam Erne. Then the Sabres generated some great chances of their own, first with a Scott Wilson shot that landed just behind Andrei Vasilevskiy but in front of the goal line. Then another opportunity from Evan Rodrigues went off the crossbar as Vasilevskiy, who finished with 32 saves, made an athletic move across the crease in attempt to get a piece of it.

Johnson capped off the sequence by forcing Brayden Point to miss on a partial breakaway as he was chased by Nathan Beaulieu. 

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: What. A. Sequence.Chances at both ends of the ice. ��This one remains a 1-goal game. #BUFvsTBL

"I didn't make a save on it, he just missed it. Beau made a good play backchecking to put pressure on him," he said. "I just tried to stay with him, stay square and make him make a good play."

Team USA in the house

Before the game, the gold medal-winning Team USA women's hockey team was honored on the ice. Buffalo native Emily Pfalzer joined Dan Dunleavy for an interview during the first intermission: 

Video: Dan interviews Emily Pfalzer

Up next

The Sabres will face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Friday night to close out the two-game road trip. Buffalo is seeking its third victory in a row following impressive wins over the Bruins and now Tampa.

Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on MSG and WGR 550 with the GMC Game Night pregame show starting at 7 on MSG.  

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