Jason Pominville had two goals and Ryan Miller made 35 saves, leading the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres past the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Friday night.
“This is the time of the year when things really get exciting,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “The pressure builds inside the game and you see what guys are made of, whether they’re going to handle it or not handle it.”
The Sabres also got a goal from Derek Roy en route to winning consecutive games after a four-game skid. Buffalo extended its lead over New Jersey for the conference’s best record to four points.
“Today certainly felt like a playoff game with the atmosphere and intensity,” Sabres centre Chris Drury said. “We’re also fighting for position so it’s not like we’re just coasting in here. Every point is huge for us and we want to finish absolutely as high as we can.
Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier scored twice, giving him an NHL-leading 48 goals. He set a team record with 96 points this season.
The Lightning played at home for the first time since going 3-3 on a road trip. Tampa Bay trails Southeast Division-leading Atlanta by four points.
“We came up short but not from a lack of effort,” Tampa Bay right wing Martin St. Louis said. “I like the way that we stayed in the game and the way we fought back. We were one shot away from tying it up and we had a few chances.”
Lecavalier put the Lightning up 1-0 early in the first before Buffalo responded with three goals midway through the period.
Pominville tied it at one at 7:29 from a tough angle near the goal line. After Roy was credited with a goal following a video review at 8:05, Pominville made it 3-1 with 9:36 left.
Lecavalier pulled the Lightning to 3-2 with 15:22 remaining in the third.
Miller stopped Brad Richards’ in-close shot with 1:35 to play.
“I just wanted to bring a good approach, good attitude and battle the entire evening,” Miller said. “Even when one of their early shots goes in our guys battled hard and I kind of cued of that.”
Notes: St. Louis held the previous team points record with 94, set during the 2003-04 season. … Buffalo C Daniel Briere had two assists, extending his points streak to four games. He has five assists and seven points during the stretch. … Lecavalier has seven goals and 12 points during a seven-game points streak.