The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame adversity, including the loss of another player, to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1.
After 48 hours filled with too many emotions to count, the Tampa Bay Lightning again found a way to rally together for a nice win on Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo..
Things started out pretty badly, with the Lightning getting outshot by the Sabres 10-2 in the first 5-10 minutes. That forced goaltender Ben Bishop to bail his teammates out on a few different occasions. He did, flashing his glove to rob Sabres forward Sam Reinhart who left shaking his head in disbelief.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, that was enough to inspire a little confidence in the rest of the team. They began skating and using their speed which led to a number of scoring chances on Sabres netminder Robin Lehner.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The result was a goal.
In his first game action since sustaining an upper body injury November 1st against the New York Islanders, Jonathan Drouin darted into the zone, dancing around a couple of Buffalo defenders before passing to Valtteri Filppula. Filppula then placed the puck on the stick of
Filppula then placed the puck on the stick of Nikita Nesterov who didn’t miss, firing the puck over Lehner’s left shoulder.
1-0 Lightning after 20 minutes but, minus the score, one could tell that wasn’t a period they were happy with.
Coming out to begin the middle frame, there was no doubt the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted to put more pressure on the Buffalo Sabres.
They did so, outshooting the Sabres 11-2 in the early going. That had Buffalo scrambling, leading to an opportunity for the newly reconfigured power play.
With Kyle Okposo off for holding, the Lightning took a little time to get set up in the Buffalo zone. Once they did, a shot from Filppula found its way to Lehner who made the initial save but couldn’t control the rebound, allowing Alex Killorn to swoop in and deposit it into the net. 2-0 Lightning.
The Sabres weren’t about to go quietly into the night though.
Following a dust-up between Victor Hedman and Johan Larsson, both of whom received two minutes for roughing, added to the original hooking call on Point, the Lightning found themselves shorthanded. The Sabres made sure they paid, with Cody Franson firing the puck over Bishop’s shoulder and into the net. That cut the lead in half at 2-1.
It stayed that way until the waning seconds of period 2 when winger Nikita Kucherov got his stick on a Killorn shot, redirecting it behind Lehner. 3-1 Lightning.
The final 20 minutes featured both netminders receiving work and standing tall. The only score came with two minutes remaining, as Point atoned for his earlier penalty by grabbing a rebound and beating Lehner with Franson in the box. 4-1 and the Lightning had gotten another win to move to 3-0-0 on this five-game road trip.
More than that, they once again proved (for one night at least) that they can not only withstand but also overcome major adversity. That’s something not every team is able to do.
To me, that ability to put aside feelings of despair (Not this again!) and anger (Why us hockey gods? Why?) after learning they would once again be missing their captain and leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos for at least four months after he underwent successful knee surgery earlier on Thursday was the biggest thing that stood out.
Maybe it’s because they’ve been down this road before? Whatever it is, there’s no denying this is an impressive attitude. One that will be needed for the next 4+ months if the Lightning hope to have a chance at another deep playoff run.
Another thing that stood out to me was the power play. Even missing Stamkos, they registered two goals with the man advantage which only adds to a power play which currently ranks in the league’s top five. Quite a change from last season where the Tampa Bay Lightning ranked in the bottom five for most of the year.
With six of a possible 10 points already collected, the Tampa Bay Lightning look to continue defying the odds and picking up points against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is set for 1pm EST at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly.
Can the Lightning survive another long-term loss of their captain to make the postseason? While there are never any guarantees, history suggests if any team can do it this one can.