TAMPA, Fla. – Jhonas Enroth stole the spotlight from Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos.
Enroth made 43 saves to spoil the return of Stamkos and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Lightning 3-1 on Thursday night.
Stamkos had been sidelined since breaking his right shin Nov. 11 at Boston, causing him to miss 45 games. The centre received a partial standing ovation during pregame introductions, when it was announced that he is the new team captain.
“For the most part I felt good,” said Stamkos, who played 21:03. “It’s a step in the right direction. You can feel it a little out there as the play progresses, but I felt like I played a lot tonight and felt pretty good. As the game went on, my timing felt great with the puck.”
Right wing Ryan Callahan, acquired Wednesday from the New York Rangers for former Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis, made his Lightning debut.
“As the game went on, I got more and more comfortable with who I was playing with,” Callahan said. “More comfortable on the ice.”
Tyler Myers, Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson scored for the Sabres. Enroth stopped a combined nine shots by Stamkos (five) and Callahan (four).
“When we get good goaltending, we have a chance to win,” Buffalo interim coach Ted Nolan said. “We were very opportunistic on our chances. Jhonas was the backbone, for sure.”
Tyler Johnson ended Enroth’s shutout bid with a short-handed goal at 17:31 of the third.
“I’m pretty (upset) that I didn’t get the shutout, but that’s hockey, I guess,” Enroth said.
The Lightning have dropped four of five since the end of the Olympic break.
Myers put Buffalo up 1-0 when he beat Anders Lindback from the right circle 15:56 into the game. Lindback had been out since hurting his ankle on Jan. 30.
Foligno made it 2-0 with his first goal in 11 games at 9:25 of the second.
Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat hit the post during a power play with 8 minutes left in the second. Five minutes later, Teddy Purcell missed the net with a shot during a 2-on-1 off a pass from Stamkos, who then had his in-close shot go over the net in the final minute of the period.
“I thought he was probably the most dangerous player on the ice,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of Stamkos.
It was just the eighth time this season that Buffalo has taken a lead into the third period.
The Sabres went up 3-0 on Hodgson’s goal with 6:16 to go in the third.
NOTES: Buffalo RW Chris Stewart and C Zemgus Girgensons left with injuries and Nolan said both are very doubtful for Friday’s game at Florida. … The Lightning went 22-18-5 while Stamkos was out. … C Torrey Mitchell, obtained in a trade Wednesday with Minnesota, played his first game with the Sabres. Michal Neuvirth, acquired from Washington, was Buffalo’s backup goalie. … The Sabres announced that G Dominik Hasek will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony on March 29. … Lightning LW Ryan Malone, who has gone pointless in 12 consecutive games, was scratched.