Lightning fall to Sabres, come up empty-handed on quick 2-game road trip
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The last-place Buffalo Sabres are suddenly playing havoc with the Eastern Conference’s top teams — and without their top offensive threat, Jack Eichel, no less.
Ryan O’Reilly scored a goal and added two assists in a 5-3 win over the East-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
“That’s a really good hockey team over there, but we showed good composure and good maturity,” O’Reilly said. “We didn’t panic. Even when they scored the power-play goal at the end there, we stuck with it. It was nice to see and it’s a good lesson for us.”
It was O’Reilly’s second consecutive three-point outing after he also had a goal and two assists in a 5-4 loss to Colorado on Sunday. The boost in production comes after Eichel sprained his right ankle in a 4-2 win over Boston on Saturday, an injury that will cost him between four and six weeks.
Sam Reinhart scored twice, including an empty-netter, and Scott Wilson and Nicholas Baptiste also scored as the Sabres never trailed.
Backup Chad Johnson stopped 26 shots to pick up just his fourth win and first in nine home appearances this season.
The Lightning lost their second in consecutive nights following a 4-3 loss at Toronto, and had their conference lead cut to one point after the Bruins’ 5-2 win over Calgary.
Special teams cost the Lightning.
The NHL’s top-scoring team converted just one of five power-play chances, and managed one shot during a two-man advantage over a 1:53 span in the second period. The Lightning’s sputtering penalty-killing unit gave up two goals on three opportunities.
O’Reilly’s power-play goal stood up as the winner in putting the Sabres up 4-2 with 16:19 left. O’Reilly began the play by feeding Kyle Okposo in the slot. Okposo’s one-timer missed, but the puck hit off the boards and landed at O’Reilly’s feet as he circled the net and wrapped a shot inside the left post.
“We made their power play look like the best power play in the league,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “The guys are trying. It’s not like they wanted pucks to go in the net. But we’ve just got to do a better job structurally.”
Tampa Bay has surrendered 10 power-play goals on 30 chances over the past 10 games.
Callahan cut the Sabres’ lead to 4-3 with 8:24 remaining by converting a rebound in front after Johnson stopped Mikhail Sergachev’s blast from the blue line. The Lightning, however, managed just one more shot on net.
“Our kill gives up one there in the third and it definitely hurt us,” Callahan said. “But at the same time, we score in a one-goal game and we don’t have an emotional push after that, no real sustained pressure or opportunities, which is disappointing.”
Lightning rookie Yanni Gourde scored his 22nd goal of the season and extended his point streak to seven games. Vladislav Namestnikov also scored.
Louis Domingue stopped 28 shots while starting in place of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was rested after allowing four goals on 23 shots against Toronto.
The Lightning had won six straight at Buffalo since a 2-1 shootout loss on Dec. 2, 2014. And Tampa Bay had gone 15-2-1 in its past 18 games — home and away — against Buffalo.
Buffalo won for just the second time in its past eight home games (2-5-1), and improved to 8-16-4 for the season.
Johnson was finally able to celebrate a victory in Buffalo after going 0-5-1 in his previous eight home appearances during his second stint with the Sabres in three years. Johnson, who played for Calgary last season, had not won at Buffalo since a 25-save outing in a 4-1 victory over Toronto on March 31, 2016.
“Yeah, I know it’s been a while,” Johnson said. “It’s been tough for everybody this season. Just haven’t gotten the results I’ve wanted to. Tonight, it was nice to get the win, especially against one of the top teams in the league.”
NOTES: Lightning C Tyler Johnson’s 12 assists in 19 games against Buffalo are his most against any team. … Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper coached his 400th career game, and had his record drop to 226-136-38. … The Sabres have scored power-play goals in 12 of their past 16 games.
Lightning: Open two-game homestand against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
Sabres: At the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.