BUFFALO, N.Y. – Mathieu Garon didn’t panic when he surrendered a pair of goals on the first three shots he faced. He just took a step back, refocused, and watched his teammates climb out of an early hole.
Garon made 36 saves to help lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a sweep of their home-and-home series with the Buffalo Sabres with a 4-3 comeback win on Tuesday night.
“You have to forget about the goals because if you give up another one it’s probably over,” Garon said. “You just have to worry about the next shot and battle through.”
Vincent Lecavalier, Nate Thompson, Steven Stamkos, and Ryan Malone all scored for the Lightning (4-3-2), who defeated the Sabres 3-0 on Saturday in Tampa Bay.
Garon was given a third straight start after registering his 20th career shutout Saturday. He tightened up after allowing those two quick goals in the first 2:31 of the game, giving Tampa Bay a chance to erase the deficit and win its third in a row.
“One of the toughest games I’ve ever had to coach in the NHL, if not the toughest,” said second-year Lightning coach Guy Boucher. “We didn’t come out at first, and we were giving the puck away every two seconds. You’re looking at your bench and saying, ‘I’ve got nobody to throw out there.’ So slowly we had to build them, one guy at a time.”
Buffalo’s first two goals came just 35 seconds apart. Thomas Vanek got his seventh after stealing the puck from Lightning defenceman Eric Brewer at the blue line, then going in and slipping the puck between Garon’s legs.
Then Brad Boyes made it 2-0 when he put a backhand in from the slot.
That’s when the Lightning began to take some of the play away from the Sabres, who came in with the stingiest defence in the Eastern Conference. They finally broke through on goals by Lecavalier and Thompson, with Lecavalier scoring on a wrist shot from the slot with just under seven minutes left in the first, and Thompson tying it with a goal with just 60 seconds remaining in the opening period.
“We knew they were going to come out with a strong start, but yet we weren’t ready,” Malone said. “They were winning the battles and took it to us early. We just tried to keep it simple because we knew there was a lot of game left.”
Nathan Gerbe also scored, and Boyes added an assist for the Sabres (5-3-0), who’ve now squandered leads in both of their losses in Buffalo so far this season.
“We got on them hard, we skated well, and did some good things early on,” Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. “After that, we kind of slipped away from our game.”
Ryan Miller, making his fourth consecutive start, finished with 19 saves for Buffalo.
“We all have to get better,” he said. “We can’t get rattled, and we have to keep going.”
Up 3-2 after two periods, Malone pushed the lead to 4-2 with a breakaway goal with 1:23 to go in regulation, but Gerbe cut it to one goal just 33 seconds later to cap the scoring.
With the score tied 2-2 after one period, Stamkos made it 3-2 when he re-directed a shot from the point through Miller’s legs.
With three consecutive wins under their belt, the Lightning have rebounded after a dismal 1-3-2 start.
“We were floating around and not supporting the puck, but now we’re not turning the puck over as much,” Malone said about the turnaround. “It wasn’t a pretty game for us, but we found a way to win.”
NOTES: The game marked the start of a season-high five-game homestand for the Sabres. They’ll also have a five-game home stretch in December. … Boyes played in his 500th consecutive NHL game. It’s the third-longest active streak in the league. … Sabres LW Tyler Ennis missed his first game with a left ankle injury. He’s out indefinitely. … Lecavalier and Stamkos both extended their individual points streak to four games. … Lecavalier recorded his 800th career NHL point. … Vanek moved into a tie with Alexander Mogilny for 10th place on the Sabres’ all-time goal-scoring list with 211. … Garon improved to 3-7-0 lifetime against Buffalo.