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Sabres pick up overtime win at Lightning

Feb 27, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Tage Thompson (72) celebrates with left wing Jeff Skinner (53) and right wing Alex Tuch (89) after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the third period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Buffalo Sabres
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning
Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Sabres
Current Status: Final (OT)

Score: Lightning 2 | Sabres 3 (OT)

Shots: TBL 23 | BUF 23

Buffalo Sabres Goals:

  1. Alex Tuch (Unassisted)
  2. Thompson (Dahlin)
  3. Dahlin (Mittelstadt, Greenway)

Tampa Bay Lightning Goals:

  1. Point (Kucherov, Headman)
  2. Chafee (Cernak, Cirelli)

Plus 1: Powerplay Strikes Blue and Gold

The Sabres powerplay has been a source of bewilderment all season. They sit at 27th in the league with a 16.1% conversion rate despite having a talented group of players to utilize. Missed opportunities on the man advantage spell disaster for Buffalo most nights. However, it was a primary driver of their victory against the Lightning. Although they continue to struggle to generate quality powerplay chances, their skill overcame their lack of opportunities. Thompson tied the game in the third with a simple but lethal shot from the wing. Skinner skated past Vasilevskiy to create a drive-by screen at the perfect moment, and Thompson blew it by the goaltender. The overtime game winner was a result of a perfect back door play from Mittelstadt to Dahlin for the tap in goal on the 4 on 3 opportunity. After the game, Dahlin credited beleaguered assistant coach Matt Ellis for drawing up the play. Buffalo needed their powerplay to capitalize in this one and it did just that.

Plus 2: Dahlin Dominance

While other Buffalo defenders have been dealing with injuries, the Sabres have increasingly leaned on their number one defenseman. Dahlin has risen to the challenge and played exceptionally with the increase in ice time. He assisted on Thompson’s game-tying goal and notched his own tally to end the game in overtime.  He was strong in his own zone and routinely negated the Tampa Bay forecheck. Buffalo will need him to continue this level of play as they try to claw their way back to playoff contention.

Plus 3: No Room, No Problem

Tampa Bay and Buffalo have talented offenses that can put up goals in bunches on any given night. So naturally, their matchup consisted of a low-event game with only 23 shots on each side. Both teams seemed to be waiting for a mistake to jump on but those were few and far between. Only 2 goals were scored at even strength and there were few dangerous chances throughout. This is typically the type of game that Buffalo loses. However, they were able capitalize when it mattered and give UPL the goal support he desperately deserves. These are the type of wins that Buffalo needs to learn how to win consistently to be successful long term. Their identity is a high-flying offense but having a few low-event wins thrown in there can make a real difference in the standings.

Final Thoughts

Buffalo was able to earn a split in their Florida road trip and return home with a much-needed win. There were not many chances throughout the game, but the powerplay was vital to the win, instead of a source of frustration in defeat. Thompson seems to have found his groove as his rocket of a shot tied the game and his speed drew the overtime penalty that preceded Dahlin’s winner. The Sabres’ top players came up big in this one. They will need to repeat their performance with the Vegas Golden Kinghts in Buffalo on Saturday, though a certain Jack Eichel remains on IR and is unlikely to play.