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Lightning 3, Sabres 1

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) – Martin St. Louis notched a goal and two assists, and Steve Stamkos chipped in with a goal and a helper to send Tampa Bay past Buffalo, 3-1, at St. Pete Times Forum.

Simon Gagne added the other goal, while Mike Smith turned aside 22 shots, as the Lightning beat the Sabres for just a second time in their last 11 home dates with them.

Jason Pominville potted the only goal for the Sabres, who have dropped two in a row and three out of their last four. Ryan Miller made 34 stops in defeat.

“I told them after the game that I was real proud of them,” Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher said. “Those tight games, those are the ones we want. The blowouts, you don’t learn much from. By the end, if you want to win a championship, these are the kind of games you have to go get and we did that.”

After a scoreless first period, Tampa Bay struck twice in the middle session.

Gagne’s backhander at 12:16 opened the scoring before Stamkos came roaring down the slot and one-timed a shot past Miller to make it 2-0 Tampa Bay with 1:50 remaining in the period.

Buffalo countered 52 seconds later when Jochen Hecht fought off a check along the boards and sent a cross-ice pass to a streaking Pominville, who one-timed it past Smith.

Miller denied Vincent Lecavalier on a penalty shot with 5:45 to go in the game to keep the Sabres within one.

St. Louis fought off a check and scored into an empty net with two seconds to play to seal the win for the Bolts, who have earned a point in six straight home games.

Game Notes

Tampa Bay’s only other home win over Buffalo since the lockout came on January 21, 2009…The Lightning have earned 40 points to forge their best start after 32 games in franchise history…The previous mark was 39, established during the 2005-06 campaign…Stamkos has recorded a point in 24 of 32 games, while St. Louis has a point in 23 of 32…Smith is 3-3-1 in eight matches against the Sabres, while Miller is 16-4-0 in 20 games against the Lightning…Pominville has 13 goals and 29 points in 21 career games versus Tampa Bay.

12/19 01:49:21 ET

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.