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Alex Killorn had a goal and assist and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s offence showed no ill-effect from missing captain Steven Stamkos in cruising to a 4-1 over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov and Brayden Point also scored, and Valtteri Filppula set up two goals with no-look passes in helping the Lightning win their third straight and improve to 6-2-1 in their past nine. The spread-out offensive contributions came in Tampa Bay’s first game since Stamkos tore a ligament in his right knee during a 4-3 win at Detroit on Tuesday.
During the game at Buffalo, the Lightning announced Stamkos had surgery and is expected to miss four months.
Cody Franson scored for Buffalo, which dropped to 0-4-2 in its past six. It’s a stretch in which the team’s offence has dried up in managing just six goals.
The Sabres face far bigger issues on the injury front. They’re playing without two top-line forwards, Ryan O’Reilly (mid-section) and Jack Eichel (left ankle), and two regular defencemen, Zach Bogosian (knee) and Dmitry Kulikov (lower back).
Kucherov’s goal with 18 seconds remaining in the second period proved to be a backbreaker for Buffalo. It allowed the Lightning to reclaim a two-goal lead after Franson had cut the margin with a power-play goal seven minutes earlier.
Killorn pounced on a turnover in Buffalo’s zone and fed Kucherov, who drove to left circle. Kucherov then snapped a shot that beat goalie Robin Lehner, who was screened by Tampa Bay forward Tyler Johnson.
Aside from Franson, who became Buffalo’s first defenceman to score a goal this season, the Sabres couldn’t buy a goal despite numerous chances against Ben Bishop.
Bishop made 32 saves, his best coming a little over three minutes into the second period to clean up his own miscue. Stopping the puck behind his own net, Bishop inexplicably sent a pass through the middle and directly on the stick of Sabres forward Kyle Okposo, who snapped a shot at the wide-open net.
Bishop, however, scrambled back and dived across the crease to glove the shot.
Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen beat Bishop by slipping a shot through his legs only to have the puck dribble wide of the left post.
Filppula showed off his play-making skills on Tampa Bay’s first two goals.
Eluding two Sabres defenders in the right circle, Filppula drove across the middle and made a nifty no-look back pass to Nesterov, who snapped a shot into the open left side to open the scoring 8:15 in.
In the second period, Filppula drove up the right wing and fed a pass through the middle to set up Killorn’s power-play goal.