TAMPA, Fla. – The Buffalo Sabres were the better club in a matchup of struggling teams.
Derek Roy scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, and Drew Stafford had a goal and two assists to lead the Sabres past the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday night.
“We got a couple of redirections that haven’t been going in,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “You need a little bit of puck luck along the way, and I thought we got some.”
The Sabres took a 4-3 lead on Roy’s goal from the right circle with 9:57 remaining.
Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht also scored for the Buffalo, which won for only the third time in 11 games. The Sabres have won seven in a row at Tampa Bay. Ryan Miller made 20 saves and improved to 12-1 against the Lightning.
“I try not to put too much into past records,” Miller said. “Every season, teams seem to change and they definitely have a lot of different guys in the lineup. It was an important game for us. That was the only focus.”
Martin St. Louis, Paul Ranger and Vinny Prospal had the Lightning goals. Tampa Bay has lost seven consecutive games and 14 of 16.
“I think in your life you always have down periods,” Tampa Bay interim coach Rick Tocchet said. “I judge people the way they react after down periods, and that’s what we’re looking for now. We’re looking for people to stand up here and get back on the frontlines. Nobody is going to help us but ourselves.”
The Lightning have dropped 13 of 17 games this season decided by one goal.
“Groundhog Day,” St. Louis said. “You feel sometimes you deserve better, but you know what, maybe we don’t. The way it’s going, it’s draining. Draining physically. Draining mentally.”
Stafford put the Sabres up 1-0 with a rebound goal at 10:02 of the first.
Vincent Lecavalier, who hit the post with a shot early in the period, set up St. Louis’ goal that tied it at 1. He sent a pass through the slot to the low left circle with 6:55 left in the first.
Lecavalier had two assists and a second-period fight with Hecht. The Tampa Bay captain has eight assists and 12 points in his last 10 games.
After Vanek scored his 19th goal – tying him with Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter for the NHL lead – at 9:46 of the second, Tampa Bay pulled even at 2 just 35 seconds later. Ranger netted his first goal in 17 games, giving him two this season against the Sabres.
The teams had another quick goal sequence later in the second when Hecht scored at 14:41, and Prospal tied it 3-3 only 39 seconds later.
Buffalo has killed off 24 consecutive power plays, including six on Saturday.
“It’s great,” Roy said. “We’re moving our feet, active sticks. Obviously, your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and Ryan’s made some great saves. On the other hand, we’re just working really hard at it.”
Notes: Lightning G Mike Smith stopped 23 shots. … Tampa Bay LW Ryan Malone sat out with an undisclosed upper body injury. … Buffalo D Craig Rivet returned after missing two games with an upper body injury. … The Sabres recalled C Nathan Gerbe from Portland and returned RW Mark Mancari to the AHL team.