TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning were rewarded for their hard work.
Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis each had a goal and an assist and the Lightning defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Tuesday.
With new head coach Jon Cooper watching from an executive suite, the Lightning put together one of their most complete defensive efforts this season.
“We did a great job of building off of last game,” Stamkos said. “We didn’t get the result we wanted in Winnipeg, but we played a solid game. Today we started from the get-go and we finished with solid game.”
Cooper is set to coach his first game on Friday against the New Jersey Devils.
Buffalo, which came into the game riding a three-game winning streak, was held to just 14 shots.
“There wasn’t a lot of urgency in anything tonight,” Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said. “(We’ll) just get ready for the next game. We got to win the next one.”
Stamkos scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season off a deflection past Ryan Miller at 16:01 of the first period.
St. Louis extended the lead to 2-0 at 8:15 of the second period with a power-play goal off a sharp pass from Teddy Purcell.
“We wanted the puck today,” Stamkos said. “We made plays and it showed out there.”
The Lightning ended a three-game losing streak while Buffalo failed to make up ground in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres trail the eighth-place New York Rangers by five points.
Jordan Leopold scored for Buffalo at 16:52 of the third period.
“We weren’t prepared enough, but the bottom line is we’re in a race right now and we desperately needed those points,” Leopold said. “We were on a roll there, too. You look at it, three games without a loss. We get something rolling there and go out and have that.”
Ryan Miller had 21 saves for the Sabres.
“No one’s going to help us,” Miller added. “We’ve got to get two points every night, and (the) first two periods didn’t speak to what we’ve been trying to do lately.”
Notes: Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman released a statement on the death of former assistant coach Wayne Fleming: “It is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge the passing of Wayne Fleming. Wayne was an extremely important part of the Lightning family on and off the ice during his time here. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Lightning organization go out to Wayne’s wife, Carolyn, and the entire Fleming family.” … Purcell extended his point streak to four games.