STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - Standing out on the ice in front of a sold-out Ericsson Globe as the American and Swedish anthems played is something Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark is never going to forget.
The Globe, the biggest hockey arena in Stockholm, is the home of the Swedish national team and on Friday night, it hosted NHL hockey. The Swedes in the lineup for both the Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning received raucous cheers during pregame introductions.
"It was a very humbling experience and it was one of those one-of-a-kind moments that I'll always cherish for the rest of my life, at least," Ullmark said.
Ullmark made 31 saves in net, but Buffalo fell to the Lightning 3-2. Sam Reinhart scored twice for the Sabres in the first game of the 2019 NHL Global Series.
"Sadly, we couldn't bring it home tonight," Ullmark said. "We've got to just recharge our batteries for tomorrow's battle and come prepared for that and keep playing our game.
The Sabres battled back from a pair of deficits. They went down 2-0 after the first period as Lightning forwards Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn each tallied early. Killorn's goal came on a deflection with the man advantage.
Video: BUF Recap: Reinhart nets two in 3-2 loss to Lightning
Reinhart was able to get the Sabres on the board with a deflection of his own off a shot by Rasmus Ristolainen with 4:17 remaining in the second.
Tampa Bay went ahead 3-1 thanks to Yani Gourde's goal 7:45 into the third and then Reinhart put Buffalo back within one on a wrist shot through traffic with 8:30 remaining.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, who entered the game with an 8-1-1 record, a 1.58 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage in 10 career games against Buffalo, made 20 saves to earn the win.
"Linus played outstanding. He truly gave us a chance," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "We didn't give up that many chances tonight, but the ones we gave up, there were some Grade A's in there that we would have liked to have defended better. He gave us a chance to stay in the game. The guys showed a lot of resilience coming back twice and trying to change the score."
Looking for more scoring
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
Buffalo's goal totals have dipped in their past six games compared to the first 10. In that opening 10-game stretch, the Sabres scored at least three goals in nine contests and scored at least four goals on five different occasions. In the last six games, however, the Sabres have not scored more than two goals in any match and have been outscored 19-9.
"Our offense needs to desperately want to shoot more and create more pucks to the net," Krueger said. "We did create chances and we were in their end in opportune situations where we didn't get the shots we needed to create more pressure on their net.
"We'll definitely be speaking about that. But generally, again, the effort was there. The compete was there. The attempt to change that score that went array in the first period for multiple reasons was there, and let's carry that energy into tomorrow."
Reinhart and Jeff Skinner both attributed some of the recent struggles to the power play not being able to generate momentum. Buffalo's power play when 0-for-2 on the night with just one shot on goal. Thanks in part to their hot start, the Sabres are still tied for the third-best power-play unit in the NHL at 25.9 percent.
"Our power play's hit a little bit of a snag. But I think, overall, we're pretty good on the PP," Skinner said. "We have to find a way to fight through it and that's just the way it goes. We get opportunities, we have bear down. We have to find a way to try to get to the net and try to score some more goals."
Video: POSTGAME: Skinner
Skinner stressed the fact that the forwards need to get into the blue paint in all situations and try to cash in some rebounds, even if it means paying a price in front of the net.
"I thought the D-men did a good job of getting pucks through. [Tampa] did a good job of boxing us out. As forwards, you've got to find a way to get to the seconds and third and get some ugly goals because that's a majority of goals scored in the league," he said. "We haven't been getting - I don't know if you can call them bounces - but we haven't been getting those goals and we need to work to find those."
Despite the loss, the team is managing to stay positive about their overall game.
"We know we're a good team and we've just got to stick with it. We can dictate these games right from the start," Ullmark said. "We've just got to keep on doing what we do best. I thought we had a pretty solid game. You're not going to win all of them, but we think we should've been able to beat these guys tonight. But what's done is done."
With 5:43 remaining in the first period, forward Vladimir Sobotka took an open-ice hit from Kucherov that knocked him out of the game. Krueger had a spirited conversation with the officials after the play when no penalty was called.
"It's something I can't control - the decisions that are being made," Krueger said. "…It was a fair hit, that was their decision. We need to move on whether we like it or not. Everyone can look at that video and make their own decision on it."
Krueger ruled Sobotka out for the second game of the series on Saturday and said that the forward would be further evaluated on Monday.
Global Series concludes on Saturday
The Sabres will look to even things up Saturday night at Ericsson Globe and take some of the lessons learned on Friday into that contest.
"I think for a lot of the game, we played the way we wanted to. It was just a couple instances when our tempo slowed our, we were a little disconnected and that led to their opportunities," Reinhart said. "But for the most part, when we were connected and supporting each other, we created a lot of chances for ourselves.
"…From our perspective, we get another shot at them. We came over here to play two games and we've got to salvage the trip a little bit."
Faceoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET (7 p.m. in Sweden) on MSG and WGR 550 with the Buick Game Night pregame show on MSG starting at 12:30.