Generally, if team losses the turnover battle, they will lose the game. Buffalo proved that fact on Saturday night.
For the second consecutive game, the Buffalo Sabres were careless with their passing and not as focused as they needed to be in the offensive zone. And for the second consecutive game, the team lost.
The Tampa Bay Lightning handed Buffalo their third back-to-back loss of the season with a 3-2 victory on Saturday night in HSBC Arena.
"We weren't good enough with the puck," said Jason Pominville, who became the fourth Sabre to score 20 goals this season. "Lindy mentioned that we had 21 turnovers after two periods. You're not going to win many games if you do that against a team that is that talented offensively."
For every one of Tampa Bay's turnovers, Buffalo coughed up three. The Lightning committed just 10 giveaways, as compared to the Sabres' 30.
But despite the turnovers, Buffalo had their chances. Jaroslav Spacek nearly tied the game with five minutes remaining, but his shot bounced like a trampoline off the right post. The Sabres out shot Tampa Bay 34-23, but couldn't find the net when it mattered most.
"Sometimes it's not always the guy with the puck," said defenseman Brian Campbell concerning turnovers. "It's the guys that aren't getting to the [open] areas without the puck, finding lanes and getting back. We're not executing."
The power play wasn't bailing any water out of the offense's sinking ship. The man-advantage failed to score for the sixteenth game this season and only produced two shots during Vincent Lecavalier's double minor penalty in the first and one shot during Craig Ryan's hooking penalty which ended with just 54 seconds left to play.
The momentum that was built with a pair of power-play goals in Buffalo's 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night disappeared on Saturday.
"We didn't do a good job on that one," said head coach Lindy Ruff referring to the Buffalo four-minute advantage in the opening period. "If you look at the giveaways in the game, and it was one area that really concerned me, some of those giveaways were uncontested on the power play. Some of our decisions weren't very good."
Fresh out of the penalty box after serving those two penalties for slugging Max Afinogenov in the back of the head twice, Lecavalier one-timed Martin St. Louis' pass from behind the net to give Tampa Bay the lead at 10:05 of the first.
The goal was Lecavalier's 60th point of the season, marking fourth straight year - fifth overall - that he has surpassed the mark during his career.
Pominville beat Nolan Pratt to a loose puck in front and scored his 20th of the season to tie the game 1-1 at 4:06 of the second. Add Max Afinogenov, Chris Drury and Thomas Vanek with Pominville and the Sabres become the first team in the league to post four 20-goal scorers this season.
Buffalo struck again while the iron was hot to take their only lead of the game. Just 44 seconds after Pominville lit the lamp, Ales Kotalik ripped a slapshot five-hole past Denis from the halfwall to put Buffalo up 2-1 at 4:50.
"For the most part, we did a good job of getting the puck up ice and controlling play five-on-five," said Ruff.
Ryan Miller never saw Dan Boyle's game-tying pointshot. Intercepting a clearing feed at Buffalo's blueline, Boyle ripped a slapshot through traffic that deflected off the crossbar to notch his 10th goal of the season at 15:38 of the second. Miller stopped 20-of-23 shots in the game.
Off a turnover in Buffalo's zone, Brad Richards one-timed Paul Ranger's pass from the right face-off dot to record the game winner at 6:56 of the third.