Buffalo Sabres Clinch Postseason Berth in Win Over Tampa Bay Lightning

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A hat trick, seven goals, win No. 200 and a clinched playoff spot.

All in all, a good night for the Buffalo Sabres.

With a 7-1 blitzing of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Buffalo clinched a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons. After a tough loss to the Ottawa Senators Friday night, Buffalo roared back Saturday at HSBC Arena.

Buffalo experienced deja vu. Tampa Bay experienced a recurring nightmare.

Reminiscent of the game played just nine days earlier, Buffalo’s offense exploded. A hat trick registered, a goaltender chased.

Derek Roy notched his fourth NHL hat trick, Buffalo scored three goals with the man advantage and Patrick Lalime made 22 saves for his 200th NHL win.

Without points leader Tim Connolly or agitator-extraordinaire Patrick Kaleta in the lineup, Buffalo was forced to dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards, including Portland Pirate Tyler Ennis.

Buffalo didn’t miss a beat.

The Sabres chased Lightning goaltender Antero Nittymaki after he gave up three goals, one coming on even strength and two on the power play. Backup Mike Smith didn’t fare much better. They combined to save just 16 of 23 shots.

Officials tossed Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier in the first period after he speared Tim Kennedy, giving Buffalo five minutes on the man advantage. Unlike Friday night, Buffalo capitalized. Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht scored 50 seconds apart and the onslaught continued.

Over the course of the game, 14 different Sabres registered at least a point. Ennis, playing in his first game since Nov. 14 in Philadelphia, recorded two assists. More importantly, he impressed with his smooth-as-butter stick-handling, explosive speed and slick playmaking.

Lalime has waited for this win since Dec. 29 against Pittsburgh. Going 0-4-1 in that span, some confidence is all he needed.

With his teammates doing their jobs, Lalime did his. He stopped 22 shots, including a few point-blank rips from the slot.

Paul Gaustad, Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville and Adam Mair each lit the lamp for the Sabres. Hecht and Roy each hit the 20-goal mark and Pominville registered his 300th NHL point.

The march to the playoffs continues. All Buffalo needed was a little confidence booster. With eight games remaining and the playoff opponent still a mystery, the Sabres are flying high.

Perfect timing.

 

 

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