|THREE STARS OF THE NIGHT |
|Vanek || |
|Connolly || |
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Thomas Vanek scored three times to lead Buffalo to a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, inching the Sabres within a point of clinching a playoff berth.
Tim Connolly had a goal and two assists and Jhonas Enroth made 23 saves to improve to 3-0-1 in filling in since starter Ryan Miller was sidelined after taking a shot off the collarbone last week. Buffalo moved a point ahead of the seventh-place New York Rangers and five up on ninth-place Carolina.
Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone scored for the Lightning, who had a five-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time in four road games. The loss leaves Tampa Bay in fifth place after opening the night a point behind Pittsburgh in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Buffalo now needs a point or a Hurricanes loss to clinch a postseason berth entering the final five days of the season. The Sabres' victory also knocked the Toronto Maple Leafs out of contention.
Lecavalier's goal, scored 13 seconds into the third period, provided the drama after the Sabres appeared to take control by building a 3-1 lead on Connolly's goal at 13:46 of the second. ...more.
When Thomas Vanek blasted a slap shot into Tampa Bay’s wide open net with just 14 seconds remaining, the 18,690 fans in attendance were able to exhale and celebrate another Sabres victory. Not only did Vanek’s empty-net goal seal Buffalo’s 4-2 win over the Lightning, it also gave him his first hat trick of the season and sixth of his career. With the Sabres clinging to a one-goal lead for most of the third period, they were attempting to hang on in the final minute. When Tampa Bay pulled goaltender Dwayne Roloson in favor of an extra attacker, they got the puck into the capable hands of Martin St. Louis, the NHL’s second leading scorer with 95 points. As St. Louis skated through the neutral zone, he was met by Vanek and Jason Pominville, who stripped St. Louis of the puck, allowing Vanek to skate up the right wing boards and rip a slap shot into the net to clinch the victory and a hat trick.
scored his 29th, 30th and 31st goals of the season, giving him his fourth career 30-goal season, and first since the 2008-09 campaign, as well as his sixth career hat trick, three of which have come against Tampa Bay. Vanek has scored six goals against the Lightning this season, the most against any opponent this year. The Sabres are now 18-4-3 when Vanek scores a goal this season, the best record of any Sabre. He also finished with a team-high six shots on goal. With the goals, Vanek now has at least one point in 13 of his last 16 games. For the season, Vanek leads the team in scoring with 70 points (31-39-70), giving him his highest point total since the 2006-07 campaign.
- With Vanek and Drew Stafford
each reaching the 30-goal mark this season, the Sabres now have two 30-goal scorers for the first time since 2007-08 when Vanek and Derek Roy
each hit the milestone.
I said a couple games ago that we need our big players to be the difference makers in the game... Staff was big in Carolina setting up a couple goals and Van was big again tonight. So our big players are making a difference and that’s important.” - Head Coach Lindy Ruff
- The Sabres improved their record over the last 22 games to 14-4-4, a run that dates back to Feb. 23. During that stretch, they have gone 8-1-2 on home ice.
- Tim Connolly registered a goal and two assists for his first three-point night of the season.
- Jhonas Enroth
started in goal for the fourth straight game as Ryan Miller
remains day-to-day with an upper body injury. Earlier today, Miller skated with his teammates at the morning skate and faced shots for the first time since last Tuesday’s game at Toronto.
- Enroth turned aside 23 of 25 shots to earn the victory, improving his record to 8-2-2 this season. He has gone 6-0-1 in his last seven starts.
- Jason Pominville
picked up a pair of assists, giving him seven points (2-5-7) in the last seven games.
- Marc-Andre Gragnani was named as the American Hockey League’s Most Outstanding Defesneman earlier today.
- Buffalo’s 24 shots were the fewest in a home win for the team this season.
- Andrej Sekera
led the Sabres in ice time at 25:01.
- Drew Stafford
extended his point streak to three games (2-3-5) when he picked up an assist on Connolly’s goal.
- Tonight’s attendance of 18,690 represented Buffalo’s 12th straight sellout at HSBC Arena.
- Ryan Miller
(upper body), Jochen Hecht
(upper body), Mike Grier (knee), Jordan Leopold
(hand) and Patrick Kaleta
(bone bruise in leg) were all sidelined for Buffalo.
- Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn was a healthy scratch.
- Defensemen Eric Brewer, Randy Jones and Matt Smaby were out of the lineup for Tampa Bay.
The Sabres will close out the home portion of their regular season schedule on Friday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers for Fan Appreciation Night at HSBC Arena. The Sabres organization invited all alumni to attend the game, and to date, more than 75 former players have confirmed that they will be in attendance. The night’s festivities will be highlighted by a red carpet event and a pregame on-ice ceremony to honor alumni and present the 2010-11 Sabres team awards. The Flyers, meanwhile, have already clinched a playoff spot and have won two of the first three meetings against Buffalo this season. Buffalo won the most recent matchup, however, when they overcame an early 2-0 deficit on the road in Philadelphia and went on to a 5-3 victory.