Buffalo’s victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning three weeks ago was surprising to say the least, but it certainly didn’t do much to inspire the last-place Sabres to earn many more.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has bounced back nicely in its chase for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lightning seek a fourth victory in five road matchups with the Sabres on Saturday night.
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Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers had a goal and an assist apiece in Buffalo’s 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on March 6. The Sabres (20-45-8), though, have been outscored 34-12 while dropping 10 of 11 since, including Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Nashville.
Buffalo’s 3-1 win over Edmonton on March 20 marked the only time it has scored more than two goals in that stretch.
"It’s just one of those things (that) in order to rebuild and to retool, you rebuild and retool with the right people, and it’s never changed from 20 years ago to today," coach Ted Nolan said. "You need the right people with the right makeup with the right character with the right drive and ambition. You don’t just show up."
The Lightning (40-24-9), meanwhile, haven’t scored fewer than three goals since that home loss to the Sabres, going 6-0-4 to sit two points behind Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand.
Steven Stamkos, who returned from a broken leg in the loss to Buffalo, has seven goals and three assists over his last eight.
Ryan Callahan scored twice and veteran defenseman Sami Salo scored his first career shootout goal in the 13th round as Tampa beat the New York Islanders 3-2 on Thursday.
"First and foremost, we got two points and that’s what we needed," coach Jon Cooper said. "They’re not all a Picasso, but we have to be better."
Callahan played his first game with Tampa Bay in the loss to Buffalo after being acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for former captain Martin St. Louis. He has four goals and four assists since joining the Lightning.
Both of Callahan’s goals Thursday came from in close.
"He makes a living in that area," Cooper said. "Wherever there is paint on the ice, he does a heck of a job. Clearly, we needed him and he was really good for us."
Ben Bishop made 25 saves and nine more in the shootout to improve to 6-0-1 with a 2.65 goals-against average over his last seven starts. The Lightning play Detroit on Sunday, and it’s unclear if Bishop or backup Anders Lindback will get the nod in this one.
Bishop won the first two meetings with Buffalo by 3-2 scores on Oct. 8 and Oct. 26.
It’s uncertain who will be in net for the Sabres. Matt Hackett started Thursday but gave up four first-period goals and was pulled in favor of rookie Nathan Lieuwen, who allowed two goals on 19 shots through the final 40 minutes.
Rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first career goal Thursday as an emergency replacement due to an undisclosed injury to Myers, who officially is considered day to day.