BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Steven Stamkos’ first goal of the season is out of the way thanks to a crafty play by Ryan Callahan.
Callahan banked a pass off the side of the Buffalo Sabres net. The puck came to Stamkos, who left no doubt with a snap shot that helped ensure Tampa Bay’s 4-1 victory Saturday.
”First period we had the same exact play,” Callahan said. ”Tried to go through a couple guys and ended up getting picked off. I end up getting the same play and it worked out.”
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Stamkos said Callahan called his shot earlier in the period.
”He came back to the bench and said, `I should’ve thrown it off the net,”’ Stamkos said. ”Second time he does it and it’s right on my tape. Pretty impressive play.”
The Lightning (2-0) fended off the Sabres on a pair of third-period goals from Stamkos and J.T. Brown, after Nikita Kucherov and Erik Condra staked Tampa Bay to a 2-1 lead.
Nicolas Deslauriers scored Buffalo’s only goal. Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson was beaten for all four goals while filling in for injured starter Robin Lehner.
After a strong 30 minutes, Buffalo (0-2) failed to give coach Dan Bylsma his first win as Sabres coach. Bylsma said his team is going to take time to come together, but lamented its defensive lapses.
”Tonight against a good team, we gave them essentially three goals,” he said.
Condra is one of the few new faces on the Lightning.
”We got all the kinks out in preseason,” he said. ”It’s easy to play with the guys I’m playing with. It becomes a simple game.”
The Sabres started well, getting off two shots on goal in the first minute. Tampa Bay didn’t get a shot on Johnson until 8:35, and moments later forced the goalie into a sprawling rebound save on Brown.
A cross-checking call on Stamkos put the Sabres on the power play midway through the period, and Bishop stymied Tyler Ennis before taking a swing at an in-the-crease Marcus Foligno. Bishop was also there to stifle a hard one-time shot from Zemgus Girgensons after the power play.
Kucherov dropped his gloves and stick after taking a wayward stick to the face from Josh Gorges, leaving the ice with a facial injury late in the period.
In the second period, Condra scored at 9:14. Off a faceoff to the right of Johnson, the Lightning wing put a rising wrist shot through the traffic and over the goalie’s right shoulder to make it 1-0.
”I actually didn’t see it go in, a guy kind of a bumped me after the play,” Condra said. ”They came to me so I figured I scored.”
Deslauriers evened things up with a backhander that eluded Bishop. Sam Reinhart and Josh Gorges picked up assists on the goal at 13:55.
Tampa took a lead into the second intermission when Kucherov sent a hard, clean wrister over Johnson’s glove hand.
A left leg injury sent Tampa forward Tyler Johnson to the locker room early in the third. Johnson was helped from the ice and down the tunnel.
A tricky bounce allowed Stamkos to pad Tampa Bay’s lead. Skating below the end line, Callahan threw a puck off the side of the goal, and Stamkos buried the flickering puck behind Johnson.
Stamkos was relieved to score in the second game of the season.
”You know it’s going to come, but you go through some droughts,” said Stamkos. ”There’s some doubts that creep into your head, but I handle it a lot better than I did earlier in my career. Confidence is big in all aspects of life.”
The Lightning added a fourth goal at 12:41 when Garrison’s shot deflected to beat Johnson high.
NOTES: The Sabres placed Lehner on the injured list before the game, calling up Nathan Lieuwen to back up Johnson. … Tampa Bay scratched Cedric Paquette, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Nesterov. … Buffalo captain Brian Gionta missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. … The Lightning play seven of their first 10 games on the road.