Lightning stumbles against last-place Buffalo

by Gary Shelton on March 1, 2018 · 0 comments

in general

Vaselvskiy was so frustrated, he threw his stick at the end./CARMEN MANDATO

Vasilevskiy was so frustrated, he threw his stick at the end./CARMEN MANDATO

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Just when you thought the Tampa Bay Lightning had healed itself, they tripped over the Buffalo Sabres.

Again.

The Lightning fell to the last-place Sabres (who have been outscored by 54 goals this year) in overtime Wednesday night by a 2-1 score. The Bolts played without the NHL's leading scorer in Nikita Kucherov or newly acquired Ryan McDonagh, but still. Last place?

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Miller made his debut for the Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

Miller made his debut for the Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

These are the games that haunt a team at the end of the season as it looks back. Former college coach Darrell Royal, when he was at Texas, used to refer to such opponents as "cockroaches." He explained, "It isn't what they eat. It's what they fall in and mess up."

“There was one team that looked like it's getting close to the playoffs and preparing to go to the postseason, and one team looked like it wasn’t," said Lightning . So take that from there. Which team was which?”

Stamkos puts a shot on goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Stamkos puts a shot on goal./CARMEN MANDATO

The Bolts took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Cory Conacher knocked in his seventh goal of the year on a rebound. But that was all the Bolts could muster against the Sabres. Tampa Bay had six shots in the first period, six in the second and just 10 in the third.

It was the second loss to Buffalo in 15 days. Those are two of only 20 wins by the Sabres this year.

“We just went into Buffalo and lost, what, two weeks ago and we just played

Coburn moves up the ice for the Lightning./CARMEN MANDATO

Coburn moves up the ice for the Lightning./CARMEN MANDATO

them again and lost," Cooper said. "So you’d think a team that just beat you just recently, I don’t know if there’s any more motivation other than now we have them in our home building, let’s take care of business.”

Buffalo scored the winning goal on a power play in overtime.

“In the end, they had four power plays so that’s a little high, but you know it’s tough to go 4-on-3," Cooper said. "But we pretty much almost got out of it. I

Callahan tries to put a shot on net./CARMEN MANDATO

Callahan tries to put a shot on net./CARMEN MANDATO

don’t know exactly what was left, and I guess that was the tough part of it…Whether that was a penalty or not, I can’t sit here and say that was a penalty. I don’t know what else Erne could have done. It was a body check. But, those are the rules and we were short and we just have to find a way. Ultimately, we didn’t.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy fell to 37-12-3, but he still leads the NHL in victories.

Newly acquired J.T. Miller made his debut for the Bolts. He had four hits, to takeaways, two blocked shots and won five of eight face-offs. He played 17 minutes and 40 seconds.

“I think it was a tough assignment tonight," Cooper said. "He was playing against their top line, and I thought they did really well. They kept him off

Erne and the Bolts didn't get off many shots./CARMEN MANDATO

Erne and the Bolts didn't get off many shots./CARMEN MANDATO

the board. He won puck battles. He was heavy. I was really pleased with him.”

Said Miller: “It was the first time I had to go through something that quick and that far, but you’ve got to come to play and not have an excuse. We’ve got another big game tomorrow. I felt comfortable. Like I said, I know a handful of these guys already. I played against them all for a long time, so I feel comfortable. I do know that this team expects better than what we gave tonight and hope to have a good bounce back game tomorrow.”

Defenseman Dan Girardi wasn't pleased despite the Bolts picking up a point:

“We’ll take the points where we can get them, but I don’t think we really deserved the two points. We had good spots in the game, but we need to have the same effort we had against Toronto, a lot of emotion, a lot of desperation. That just wasn’t there tonight. We take a bunch of penalties in the third, and that hurts a lot.”

Said Conacher: “We tried to create energy. I don’t know what our problem was tonight. We weren’t supporting each other as much as we should. We weren’t as predictable as we were against the Leafs. The emotions weren’t there as well, so there were a few things that weren’t going our way. In the end, we didn’t deserve to win.”

The Bolts travel to Dallas for a game against the Stars tonight.  The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Conacher (center) celebrates his goal with Gourde./CARMEN MANDATO

Conacher (right) celebrates his goal with Gourde./CARMEN MANDATO

 

 

 

 

 

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