BUFFALO, N.Y. – After waiting eight full games, what’s another 10 minutes for Steven Stamkos to get credit for his first NHL goal.
The 18-year-old rookie netted his first two NHL scores and added an assist, and Olaf Kolzig made 29 saves in Tampa Bay’s 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
But what everybody already knew, the official scorers didn’t until the first period break. Standing in front of Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, Stamkos deftly deflected Vincent Lecavalier’s slapshot from the top of the right circle. Problem was, Lecavalier was given the goal that staked Tampa Bay to a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
During the intermission, the officials fixed the error.
“I knew it hit my stick right from the beginning, and Vinny knew that too, so it was just a matter of them correcting it,” Stamkos said. “I had some butterflies when they announced Vinny as the goal scorer, but he told the ref that I tipped it in. It was obviously a great feeling when they corrected it.”
Lecavalier even had enough foresight to make sure the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft got the correct puck to commemorate the occasion.
“I went over right away and told them,” Lecavalier said. “It’s a relief getting your first goal. He played an unbelievable game tonight.”
So did the Lightning, who have won three of their past four after starting the season with five losses.
“We really played our best game,” Stamkos said. “We’ve been doing things the last few games that we weren’t doing in the beginning of the season.”
Like scoring goals.
Tampa Bay came in with just 14, the fewest in the league. But the Lightning have now scored eight times during their modest two-game winning streak.
“We’re skating, we’re first on the puck, and we’re aggressive,” Lecavalier said. “We scored five, and I thought we could have scored more.”
Jussi Jokinen, Ryan Malone and Paul Ranger also scored for the Lightning, who snapped a five-game losing streak against Buffalo.
Clarke MacArthur and Thomas Vanek scored for the slumping Sabres, who have dropped three straight, including one in a shootout. Buffalo began the season with eight consecutive games without a regulation loss.
Miller lost for the first time this season in regulation, allowing all five goals on 40 shots. He also lost for only the second time in 13 career games against the Lightning.
“We’re not making plays that are connecting,” he said. “It’s not the kind of hockey we want to play.”
Jokinen made it 2-0 just 39 seconds before MacArthur closed the gap with his fifth of the season at 11:12 of the first. Malone then increased Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-1 26 seconds later.
Ranger made it 4-1 with less than seven minutes to go in the second before Stamkos scored his second of the game just under two minutes later. After accepting a pass from Adam Hall, Stamkos sent a slapshot from the top of the right circle that eluded Miller.
“Everybody loves the kid and they know what he had been going through,” Lightning coach Barry Melrose said about the rookie. “They really rallied around the guy.”
Vanek’s ninth of the season made it 5-2 with just 20 seconds left in the second period, deflecting a slapshot from the middle of the blue-line by Andrej Sekera.
“There wasn’t a lot to like about that game,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’re not firing on all cylinders offensively.”
Notes: Lecavalier had a pair of assists to extend his points streak to 12 games against the Sabres. … Tampa Bay is in the midst of playing seven of eight on the road. … Sabres D Henrik Tallinder returned after missing one game because of a laceration above his ankle, while C Paul Gaustad played in his first game of the season after having thumb surgery. … Kolzig, making just his third start of the season, improved to 3-4 in his past eight games against Buffalo. … The Sabres have allowed 10 goals in their past two games, both regulation losses.