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Vanek powers Sabres past reeling Lightning

BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- Thomas Vanek recorded his

NHL-leading 21st and 22nd goals in the second period as the

Buffalo Sabres overcame an early two-goal deficit and handed the

Tampa Bay Lightning their ninth straight defeat with a 4-2

triumph on Wednesday.

Drew Stafford netted a power-play goal, Jason Pominville added

an empty-net goal and two assists and Ryan Miller made 26 saves

for Buffalo, which has won three in a row.

"I said this after we won two in a row," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff

said. "Someone said, 'Have you turned the corner?' I said,

'You turn the corner and the next thing you face is another

corner.'"

Martin St. Louis and Mark Recchi scored and Mike Smith turned

aside 33 shots for Tampa Bay, which fell to 0-7-2 in its last

nine games and 1-7-4 since firing coach Barry Melrose on

November 14.

"When things are going the wrong way, you have to not so much

play perfect, but you gotta play a smart game," Lightning

interim coach Rick Tocchet said.

"When you go nine, 10 games without a win, it really wears on

players - and it's no different tonight," Smith added. "I've

been on some pretty bad teams, but this is definitely right up

there with the toughest stretch (of my career) - definitely in

the NHL, I can tell you that."

After leveling the contest with 8:08 remaining in the second

period with a goal on a breakaway, Vanek gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead

with 15 seconds remaining in the session, accepting a feed on

the doorstep and backhanding the puck just under the crossbar.

"It's not what we want to do, but in the end, it's nice to get a

win," Vanek said of his team scoring four unanswered goals. "I

thought the last 50 minutes, we played well and deserved to

win."

For the 24-year-old Austrian, it was his 15th goal in 15 career

games against the Lightning. It also capped his sixth

multi-goal effort of the season.

Vanek entered the contest tied with Jeff Carter of the

Philadelphia Flyers for the league lead in tallies.

After Tampa Bay scored twice in just under a six-minute span in

the latter half of the first, Stafford halved the deficit with

38 seconds remaining in the period by deflecting defenseman

Jaroslav Spacek's wrist shot from the left point past Smith

during a power play.

"We really had to battle back after a tough start," Miller said.

"I thought it was one of our better home games after we got our

feet under us."

"I think we just started off bad," Buffalo's Paul Gaustad said.

"That's something that we've had a problem with sometimes in

this season, but I think we showed a lot of character coming

back. Sometimes we have bad starts and then haven't followed up

through it."

Pominville scored with 13 seconds remaining in the third to seal

the win for the Sabres.

"Each game is a new day, and it seems like we're getting the

same result. We can't have that," Tampa Bay's Ryan Craig said.

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