Lightning 3, Sabres 1

Lightning coach Guy Boucher is pleased with his team’s improving

play in close games.

Steven Stamkos scored his 25th goal of the season, Martin St.

Louis had an empty-net goal and two assists and Tampa Bay beat the

Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Saturday night.

”If you want to win championships, those are the games that

you’ve got to go get,” Boucher said. ”You’ve got to know how to

do it.”

Tampa Bay also got a goal from Simon Gagne. Mike Smith stopped

22 shots, helping the Lightning win for just the second time in

their last 11 homes games against Buffalo.

”What can I say? These guys are just battling every night,”

Smith said.

Tampa Bay is 5-2-1 in its last eight games, including four

one-goal wins.

”I think we’re taking pride the last couple weeks in our

defensive play,” Stamkos said.

Jason Pominville had a goal and Ryan Miller made 34 saves for

the Sabres. Miller was pulled after allowing four goals on 10 shots

in the first period of a 6-2 loss Friday night at Florida.

”It’s disappointing,” Sabres right wing Mike Grier said of the

consecutive losses. ”We were playing fairly well coming in, but we

dug ourselves a hole.”

Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier failed to score on a

penalty shot with 5:45 remaining in the third.

Gagne put the Lightning up 1-0 when he lifted a low-slot

backhander over Miller during a power play with 7:44 left in the

second. Miller lost for the fourth time in 20 career decisions

against Tampa Bay.

Stamkos made it 2-0 with 1:50 left in the second, scoring from

the slot off a pass from St. Louis, who had received a pass through

the slot from Ryan Malone.

Pominville cut it to 2-1 when he scored an in-close goal with

47.7 seconds to go in the second. The right wing has 13 goals and

29 points in 21 games against the Lightning.

”I just didn’t think we won enough battles,” Buffalo coach

Lindy Ruff said.

Tampa Bay went up 3-1 on St. Louis’ goal with 1.6 seconds to

play. Stamkos assisted on the goal for his 21st assist this


Miller stopped Dana Tyrell’s shot during a short-handed

breakaway 4 minutes into second. The goalie also stopped another

short-handed chance by Tyrell early in the third.

Tampa Bay outshot Buffalo 18-5, including five shots by Stamkos,

during the second.

”The way we’re winning is great,” Lightning center Nate

Thompson said. ”We’re playing from the start to the end. These

tight games, we’re getting contributions from everyone.”

NOTES: Buffalo C Tim Connolly broke his nose and went to the

locker room after a check into the boards by Thompson 90 seconds

into the game. Connolly returned for the start of the second

period. ”Badly fractured,” Ruff said. … Gagne has 13 goals and

30 points in 31 games against Buffalo. … Sabres D Shaone

Morrisonn (concussion) has resumed practicing with the team. He has

missed six straight games.