TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) — The Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to
respond to rumors regarding the trading of captain Vincent
Lecavalier, but they seemingly have changed their ways on the
Jeff Halpern and defenseman Cory Murphy each recorded a goal and
an assist as the Lightning posted a 5-3 victory over the Buffalo
Sabres on Wednesday.
Blue-liners Lukas Krajicek and Steve Eminger also tallied and
Steve Downie added another goal to support a 31-save effort from
Mike Smith for the Lightning, who have won six of their last
“The last three or four weeks, this team has faced a lot of
adversity, and they passed the test,” Tampa Bay interim coach
Rick Tocchet said. “They’ve done a great job. We all play to
play for the playoffs. Who wants to play just a regular season?
“Obviously there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve dug
ourselves a hole and we’re trying to get out of it. We’ve been
getting better as a team, getting those ugly goals.”
Derek Roy scored a pair of goals, Ales Kotalik netted a
power-play tally and Jason Pominville notched two assists for
Buffalo, which had its four-game winning streak halted.
“We worked hard for a good period of time,” Sabres coach Lindy
Ruff said. “We looked like we were going to push right up
against them. We created the opportunities we wanted to create
and we missed a couple of great opportunities, and when you’re
pressing that hard, you give up some opportunities.”
Amid the distractions, Lecavalier and the Lightning have begun
to ease the sting of a horrific 7-16-9 start, which included a
season-high, nine-game losing streak.
Tampa Bay already has set a season high for wins in a month with
six in January, and its surge has come at a rather puzzling time
as it has been rumored to be shopping Lecavalier to a contender
such as the Montreal Canadiens.
Lecavalier had scored in three straight games and recorded seven
goals and 14 points over the previous 10 contests, but the
All-Star was kept off the scoresheet in this one. Instead, his
supporting cast stole the show.
“It’s really fun,” Halpern said. “We have to focus and keep it
simple. That’s how you score. I think the way our team has
been playing over the last few weeks, we’re getting goals as a
team, and sometimes it might not always be (Lecavalier and
Martin St. Louis) that are scoring, but they’re tilting the ice
for the next line out there.”
Tampa Bay claimed an early lead as Eminger blasted a slap shot
past goaltender Ryan Miller 4:45 into the contest and Downie
tallied just 34 seconds later.
Roy halved the deficit 19 seconds into the middle period, but
Krajicek solved Miller 64 seconds later for a 3-1 cushion.
“I think it was a pretty even game, it could easily have gone
either way,” Kotalik said. “Chance-wise, they were a little bit
better. I don’t know if we deserved to win tonight.”
Kotalik kept Buffalo afloat just over four minutes into the
second. After Halpern gave Tampa Bay a 4-2 bulge less than 10
minutes later, Roy struck again with the man advantage with 3:05
left in the session.
“We got a couple of big saves on a couple of overaggressive
plays, and then the Halpern goal was kind of a killer for us,”
Ruff said. “It took a little momentum out of us.”
With six seconds remaining in the period, Murphy – who was
claimed off waivers from Florida on Monday – capped the
offensive outburst with a power-play goal, firing a slap shot
from the high slot past Miller.
“We’re going to put a big run on now and hopefully get some rest
going into the break and come back rejuvenated and ready to make
a big push,” Smith said. “It was nice to see some of our D
contribute tonight, and that was a big goal by Murphy on the
Smith turned aside all nine shots he faced in the third to
preserve the victory and improve to 13-16-9 on the season.
“We’ve go to bear down on those chances,” Roy said. “They had
their chances, and they put them in the back of the net.”
Miller made 21 saves for the Sabres, who fell to 7-3-0 in their
last 10 contests.
Buffalo also lost defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who injured his
shoulder in the second period and did not return. The Swede is
expected to miss a fair amount of time.
“He’s not good,” Ruff said. “He’s got a shoulder injury, and
we’ll probably get him back to Buffalo to be looked at. But
he’s going to be out for a good period of time.”