BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — For the second game in a row, the Tampa Bay Lightning started off slow. And once again, they rallied for a win.
Steven Stamkos scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:16 remaining to lead the Lightning to a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. It followed a similar performance in the team’s 3-1 win over Carolina on Thursday.
“For the first period and a half I didn’t think we had it, that’s another slow start,” Stamkos said. “We need to correct some things there. But this group this year, it just feels different. Just finding that we’re confident we’re going to win. We found a way.”
Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan also scored for to help the Lightning win for the 18th time in 20 games and improve to 35-8-2. Louis Domingue stopped 30 shots.
“I think everybody thinks the same way on the team,” Tampa Bay defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “We know that we’re going to bounce back. I mean, look at our group. We have so much skill and big defensemen who can shoot and skate and forwards are super skilled. We always have a feeling that we’re going to bounce back and score goals.”
The teams traded goals in each period before Tampa Bay took charge late.
The game-winner came off a drop-pass by Kucherov, the NHL’s leading scorer. Stamkos then ripped a hard shot to the blocker side to put the Lightning up for good. Ryan Callahan then added some insurance with 1:19 remaining to make it 5-3.
Sam Reinhart, Tage Thompson and Marco Scandella scored for Buffalo, which lost for the second straight night. Linus Ullmark finished with 25 saves.
“I thought we worked hard,” Sabres captain Jack Eichel said. “Obviously we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. I thought there was a lot of good there for us.”
Scandella gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead at 5:54 of the third, chipping home a pass from Jason Pominville from close range.
Just 23 seconds later, the Lightning took advantage of a bad giveaway by Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut, and Stamkos found Kucherov for his 22nd goal of the season.
The Lightning leaned on Kucherov time and time again throughout the game.
“He can do some magical things, that kid,” Cooper said. “Everybody was kind of sleep-walking through that first period but you could see he had the vibe going so when he’s got that happening, you kind of have to get him out there as much as you can. As that game wore on he was driving the bus.”
Point opened the scoring just 26 seconds into the game. After a faceoff win in the Buffalo zone, Point buried a rebound for his 29th goal of the year.
Reinhart evened the score five minutes later after a Buffalo power play expired. Reinhart put a move on Stamkos in the high slot and placed a wrist shot high to the glove side for his 10th of the season.
Thompson gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead just before the end of the first, finishing a 2-on-1 chance into the far corner with 10 seconds left in the period.
Palat evened the score at 2-2 on a spectacular play by Sergachev. Sergachev raced to the right, placing a perfect backhand pass to Palat in the slot and Palat’s one-timer went in for his sixth.
NOTES: D Nathan Beaulieu, D Matt Hunwick and LW Remi Elie were scratched for the Sabres. ... D Anton Stralman, RW Mathieu Joseph and LW Danick Martel were scratched for the Lightning. ... The fourth and final meeting between the two teams is on Feb. 21 in Tampa Bay.
Lightning: At the New York Islanders on Sunday night.
Sabres: Begin a five-game road trip on Monday against Edmonton.
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