<em>Thompson nets three, Lyubushkin wins in OT. </em>
Score: Sabres 6, Lightning 5
Shots: Buffalo 23, Tampa 41
Buffalo Sabres Goals: Zemgus Girgensons (7), Tage Thompson (37, 38, 39), Jack Quinn (10), llya Lyubushkin (1)
Tampa Bay Lightning Goals: Steven Stamkos (26), Victor Hedman (5), Brayden Point (34), Anthony Cirelli (8), Ross Colton (13)
Plus 1: Girgensons Ties it Early
Lightning captain Steve Stamkos made short work of scoring, getting Tampa on the board with a wrister barely two minutes into the opening period. Zemgus Girgensons tied it midway through the first, deflecting the puck past Bolts goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 1-1. Girgensons’ seventh goal this season was his first since Feb. 15 and hopefully won’t be his last.
Plus 2: TNT Gets a Hat Trick
After the game was tied 1-1 going into the second period, Nicholas Paul served two minutes for shoving Rasmus Dahlin to the ice with a dirty hit. Midway through the Sabres’ power play, Tage Thompson got a wrist shot thanks to assists from Skinner and Dahlin to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead.
Three minutes later, TNT shot a second wrister with another assist from Skinner to make it 3-1 Sabres.
6:18 into the third, after both opponents got back and forth answering goals, Thompson scored unassisted on Vasilevskiy to make it 5-3. Thanks to his three goals, Thompson exceeded last year’s goal total, with 26 games left this season.
Plus 3: Quinn Shoots One In
Almost as soon as Thompson got his second goal in the second period, Victor Hedman answered back to make it 3-2 Sabres. Jack Quinn quickly replied to Hedman, with a wrist shot that beat Vasilevskiy to restore Buffalo’s two-goal lead. While the Skinner-Thompson-Tuch line gets the most on-ice production, it’s great to see Quinn and Co. make things happen when the Sabres need them to.
Plus 4: Lyubushkin Nets Shorthanded OT Winner
Speaking of players who step up at just the right moment, Ilya Lyubushkin stripped the puck from Stamkos at the end of a Tampa power play, skated down the ice and smoked No. 88 to win it for Buffalo in overtime.
TCMiller30 had the Comment of the Game: “Booshbagged!!!” Lyubushkin’s first goal of the season stunned the crowd at Amalie Arena and gave the Sabres a much needed two points. The defenseman’s game winner is just his career fourth. Will fans see him play more aggressively like Dahlin and Power? Time will tell.
Minus 1: Refs Try to Screw Sabres Again
The Sabres have been on the short end of the officiating stick since time immemorial. So, it was especially galling to watch Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak elbow Sabres captain Kyle Okposo in the face with 1:36 left in regulation. The refs refused to discipline Cernak but then penalized Henri Jokiharju with a delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass.
If the zebras felt they needed to punish Jokiharju for flipping the puck, why was that action more egregious than Cernak’s hit on Okposo? Back in 2019, the NHL suspended Cernak for a similar elbow on Dahlin.
If the league takes no action against Cernak now, it just reinforces Sabres’ fans feelings that the fix is in against Buffalo, something the NHL has done little to dispel over the years.
The Buffalo Sabres play great second period hockey, but continue to struggle to close out games and stop opponents from making third period comebacks. Far too often, the team can’t put a consistent 60 minutes together and ends up going to overtime. While we all love OT thrillers, the Sabres can’t win them all. They must find a way to get more regulation victories before Buffalo’s playoff chances slip away once again.
The Sabres head to Florida Live Arena next to face the Panthers in back-to-back road contests. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. ET