Sabres stymie Lightning with 2-1 shootout win
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) All of a sudden, goalie Jhonas Enroth and the Buffalo Sabres aren't the pushovers they were to start the season.
After sweeping a two-game series against the then-NHL leading Montreal Canadiens last weekend, the Sabres put the clamps on the high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning.
Enroth stopped 26 shots through overtime and then two more in the shootout in securing a 2-1 victory Tuesday night.
''Obviously, the confidence is a little bit higher now,'' Enroth said. ''We beat a couple of great teams the last couple of games, so we know we can beat every team in the league.''
Enroth improved to 5-1 in his past six starts, a stretch in which he's allowed just nine goals.
Zemgus Girgensons forced overtime by chipping in a rebound with 3:54 remaining, a little more than six minutes after Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat opened the scoring. And then Buffalo's Cody Hodgson - with a backhander - and Tyler Ennis - with a snap shot just inside the left post - scored on their shootout chances.
Buffalo (9-14-2) improved to 6-1 in its last seven, a stretch that began after the team opened the season 3-13-2.
''Part of getting better is that resiliency, to keep going and keep going,'' coach Ted Nolan said.
The Lightning (17-6-3), coming off a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night, entered the game leading the NHL with 90 goals and tied for the league lead with 36 points.
They instead started flat by mustering just two shots in the first period. And they lacked finish in the shootout in having a four-game winning streak snapped.
Palat was stopped on Tampa Bay's first attempt, when he attempted to slip the puck through Enroth's legs. Ryan Callahan had his snap shot turned aside by Enroth's blocker.
''I thought we played well enough to win the hockey game and we didn't,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ''They score that goal with, what, 4 minutes left? That probably doesn't happen, either.''
The teams meet again at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
This one turned with a pair of momentum shifts in the final 10 minutes of the third period.
Palat's goal came on a nifty passing play that began with Nikita Kucherov's no-look pass to Tyler Johnson streaking up the right wing. Driving deep into the corner, Johnson fed the puck into the middle, where Palat stuffed it in.
The Sabres finally cashed in following a pair of chances, with Girgensons' tying goal coming with 3:54 left.
Following a faceoff to the right of the net, the Sabres worked the puck to Tyler Myers at the blue line, where he rifled a rising shot on goal. Evgeni Nabokov made the initial save but was unable to control the rebound. The puck bounced to Girgensons, who flipped it over an off-balance Nabokov, who was falling backward.
''Honestly, I thought I had it because it hit my ribs, and that's why I was leaning back,'' said Nabokov, who made 21 saves. ''I thought I had it. And then I saw the puck fly out. So that's when I needed longer arms, I guess.''
Girgensons' goal came immediately after Nabokov made a big stop on Brian Flynn, who was set up alone in front by Brian Gionta.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos nearly settled it with 5 seconds left in regulation. Rounding into the left circle, Stamkos snapped a shot through a crowd and hit the far post. The puck caromed back off Enroth's shoulder and fell into the crease, where the goalie smothered it.
NOTES: Sabres D Josh Gorges played after missing seven games with a knee injury. ... Lightning rookie LW Jonathan Drouin, with one assist in his past seven games, was a healthy scratch. ... Girgensons is the surprise leader in the NHL All-Star game fan vote with 399,356, nearly double that of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (218,672). Girgensons, a second-year player, has credited the surge to fans clicking away online back home in Latvia. The only limit applied by the NHL is that fans can vote only 10 times a day. ... Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli sat among NHL scouts in the press box.