Sabres try to continue sudden surge vs. Lightning

( – The suddenly surging Buffalo Sabres will aim for their
first three-game winning streak of the season on Tuesday when they host the
streaking Tampa Bay Lightning in the opener of a home-and-home series
between Atlantic Division foes.

The Sabres won just three times over the first 18 games of the season, but
Ted Nolan’s club has five victories in six outings since that 3-13-2 start.

Buffalo enters Tuesday on a two-game winning streak after pulling off an
improbable home-and-home sweep of the Montreal Canadiens this weekend. The
Sabres notched a 2-1 regulation win Friday in Buffalo and then recorded a
shootout victory the following night in Montreal.

The Sabres hope to keep up the pace tonight against the Lightning, who are
tied with Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. The first-place
clubs have 36 points — 18 more than basement-dwelling Buffalo.

Tampa enters Tuesday on a four-game winning streak and tonight the Lightning
hope to pick up where they left off last season against the Sabres. The Bolts
won three of four meetings in 2013-14 and have claimed seven of 11 overall in
this series.

The Lightning also have won two in a row and four of the past five encounters
with the Sabres in Western New York. Tampa will host Buffalo on Thursday in
the opener of a four-game homestand.

Buffalo blew a 2-1 third-period lead in Montreal on Saturday, but recovered
for the 4-3 win. Max Pacioretty gave the Canadiens their first lead of the
game with 6:45 left in the third, but Buffalo’s Brian Flynn evened the score
at 3-3 just 49 seconds later.

Flynn also recorded the lone goal of the shootout to help the Sabres finish
off the surprising home-and-home sweep of the Habs.

After each team’s first four shootout participants were unsuccessful, Tomas
Plekanec followed suit for Montreal as Jhonas Enroth calmly turned aside his
offering with a stick save. Flynn then put an end to the skills competition
with a shot into an open net off a slick backhand-forehand deke past a sliding
Dustin Tokarski.

Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart also scored in regulation for the Sabres,
while Enroth turned aside 41 shots and stopped five more in the shootout.

“Jhonas Enroth was great tonight. He made some timely stops,” Flynn said. “If
he saves five in a row, you need to win the game.”

The Lightning were in action last night, as they put the finishing touches on
a season sweep of Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers with a 6-3 victory
at Madison Square Garden.

Tampa outscored the Blueshirts by a 15-7 margin in taking the season series
3-0. The Lightning won two games in New York City by a combined margin of

Tyler Johnson had two goals and an assist to lead the Bolts on Monday. Tampa
trailed 3-2 midway through the second period, but responded with four
unanswered goals to end the game.

Brett Connolly scored twice, Ondrej Palat posted a goal and an assist while
Matthew Carle also had a goal for the Lightning. Ben Bishop posted 32 stops.

“They made us play under pressure … Our guys handled it,” Lightning coach
Jon Cooper said.

Victor Hedman notched three assists in his second game back from a broken
finger. The defenseman has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in seven games this

The Lightning could give Bishop a rest tonight and start backup Evgeni
Nabokov, who is 5-4-3 with a 2.20 goals against average in his career against

Tampa is 7-4-1 as the visiting team this season.