The Tampa Bay Lightning sought to complete a season sweep of the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night in the fifth game of a season-long seven game home stand. However, the Sabres avenged the earlier losses in the season and defeated the Lightning 7-3 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Tampa Bay and Buffalo were scoreless until midway through the first period when Drew Stafford converted on a deflected puck, putting it past Dustin Tokarski at 11:31 of the period.
Tokarski didn’t have his best game on Monday night, he allowed four goals on 15 shots before Dwayne Roloson came in relief in the second period. Tokarski’s worst look was when he let in a rather soft goal in the first period when Jason Pominville scored from the short side below the face off circle.
The rookie let two more through before Roloson came in relief in the second period. Roloson didn’t have his best showing either, giving up three goals himself. At the same time, there wasn’t much help from the defense throughout the night for both goalies.
Defense was a major problem on for the Lightning against the Sabres. Tampa Bay allowed 38 shots in the game and never looked aggressive in its own zone. There were two untimely turnovers as well, including one from Brendan Mikkelson and Bruno Gervais which contributed to two of Buffalo’s goals and that had the Lightning trailing the Sabres 2-0 at the end of the first period.
According to Lightning coach Guy Boucher, scoring the first goal in games is crucial, especially with the situation Tampa Bay’s season is in.
"I thought the first 10 minutes were great, they showed up, they were great, but it’s tough when you start and you get scored on two in the first period and you miss the chances you had and it’s been like that for a little while now," Boucher said. "We haven’t gotten the first goal for awhile and I think we are in the position where we need to get a little help with the first goal."
Gervais, Trevor Smith, and Ryan Malone scored for the Lightning but the Sabres’ offense exploded, especially in the second period scoring four goals. Buffalo also outshot the Lightning 38-27.
Boucher addressed the importance of winning tight games, especially as the Lightning deal with injuries.
"We’re going to have to win our games 1-0, 2-1, and maybe 3-2." he said. "You know, when you miss the chances like we did in the first 10 minutes and they get theirs…it’s tougher, it’s tougher mentally, yes."
With the loss, the Lightning now sit nine out of a playoff spot and 12th in the Eastern Conference and its playoff chances are dwindling with only 11 games left in the season.
Tampa Bay is off until it faces Edmonton on Thursday night at 7:30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.