Game 73: Staying Alive

What many fans probably thought would be a boring game turned into an entertaining laugher. Buffalo absolutely dominated Tampa Bay tonight, soundly beating them by a score of 7-3.

 

1st Period: The Foligno-Ennis-Stafford line had a really good first shift and sustained some good offensive zone time. Tampa Bay had the Sabres on their heels when Stamkos’ line first came onto the ice. It had a lot to do with having Weber not getting off the ice for a change in my opinion. During the first eight minutes of the game, it was pretty much a typical Lightning-Sabres game: boring and very few chances. It certainly didn’t even come close to matching the intensity and entertainment level of the beginning of the Devils-Rangers game.

Anyways, the unit of Leino, Hodgson, and Vanek created a little spark with a scoring chance. Shortly after that, the psuedo-4th line of McCormick-Boyes-Kaleta generated a flurry in front of rookie netminder, Dustin Tokarski, but also failed to score as the period reached the halfway point. Buffalo would kick off the scoring at the 8:25 mark. Ehrhoff took a shot from the left side of the ice along the boards that got beautifully redirected into the net by Stafford. The Sabres had few more chances from the Ennis-Foligno-Stafford line to make it 2-0, but couldn’t score. Still, it was great to see them show signs of controlling the pace of the game. That’s something that’s been a rarity in games against Tampa Bay.

Ennis would draw the game’s first penalty by forcing Victor Hedman to commit a holding penalty against him. Buffalo would actually capitalize on their chance. Hodgson and Pominville had a little give-and-go action with each other that ended with Pominville one-timing a Hodgson pass into the net near the left face-off dot to make it 2-0. The assist was Hodgson’s first point as a member of the Sabres. That score would stand-up heading into the next period. Buffalo only gave up six shots on goal to Tampa Bay. I think maybe one of those shots had a decent chance of going in.

2nd Period: Take a wild guess on which line got an early goal for the Sabres. Less than two minutes in, the Ennis line struck gold. Ennis and Foligno went in on a 2-on-1 and the former sauced a pass over to Foligno who made no mistake with the shot. That line just continued to create and Tropp almost buried a rebound coming on the ice for Stafford. The highlight of the game for the Lightning by far at this point was the hit that Eric Brewer put on Leopold in the Tampa end of the ice. Miller would make a very good save on Marty St. Louis a short time later.

The Lightning would finally get a goal on a good passing play down low around the 12:30 mark. Teddy Purcell would feed Steven Stamkos to make it 3-1. Roy was the primary culprit on that goal. He failed to cover his man.  Buffalo would get that goal right back though. Vanek made a nice pass over to Tropp on a rush into the Tampa zone to send him in alone on Tokarski. From there, he made a deke and beat him short-side to get the Sabres’ lead back up to three goals. Hodgson also collected his 2nd point as a Sabre on that goal.

After that goal was scored, Tokarksi was pulled for Dwayne Roloson. Steven Stamkos would take a high-sticking penalty against Ehrhoff to give the Sabres their second power play of the game. Unlike the last power play, Buffalo wasn’t really that productive and failed to generate much of anything. The Lightning would cut the margin to two goals again with under six minutes to go. Thanks to some spectacularly bad coverage by the defense and the floating Sabres forwards, Tampa got some pressure in front of Miller and Trevor Smith banged the loose puck home for his 1st career goal.

The Sabres would get another chance on the man-advantage, thanks to a questionable call against Victor Hedman. Foligno, Ennis, and Stafford played together on the power play and would get the lead back up to three goals. Stafford got the puck in front of the net and Foligno outmusc a couple of defenders to shove the puck past Roloson. Buffalo wasn’t done though. Boyes of all people would score on a fat rebound to make it 6-2. Regehr would take a hooking penalty against Steven Stamkos to give the Lightning their first power play of the night. Most of their possession was kept to the outside though and the Sabres were successful in killing off the penalty. It would stay 6-2 heading into the 3rd.

3rd Period: It only took 17 seconds for Buffalo to get another goal. After a giveaway in the Lightning zone by Victor Hedman and sniped Roloson top corner on the glove side. Ennis tried getting Stafford another goal on a 2-on-1 chance, but Stafford failed to connect on the one-timer. Brandon Segal would take a high-sticking penalty against Stafford to give Buffalo another chance to add to the blowout-lead. A penalty assessed to Sekera would negate the tail-end of the Sabres’ power play. Teddy Purcell had a wide-open net to shoot at, but he missed. That would be the only real chance Tampa Bay had on that opportunity.

Not much would happen after that. Buffalo had a couple more decent chances that couldn’t find their way to the back of the net. Ryan Malone would tip an Eric Brewer shot in past Miller to make it 7-3 with five minutes to go. The Sabres would just go on cruise control and skate out of Tampa Bay with a win.

 

 

Quick-hits:

-Buffalo was absolutely stifling. I know the Lightning got three goals, but all three were results of sloppy play. Tampa Bay rarely had any kind of sustained presence in the Sabres’ zone.

-The Foligno-Ennis-Stafford line is playing as well as any line in the entire league.

-Props to Hodgson for breaking his point-cherry.

-Hard to believe that tonight’s win was the Sabres’ first win over Tampa this season.

-In a game where there were a ton of  Buffalo players who had good games, Roy and Leino managed to have pretty bad ones.

-Sekera led the team in total ice time tonight. I guess he’s over his pneumonia.

-Loved the “We want eight!” chants on the road.

 

Game Scoresheet

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