However, the Bolts weathered the storm, and established a forecheck. Eventually, the Lightning's aggressive forecheck paid off. With the puck deep in the Buffalo zone, Lightning forward Connolly pressured a Buffalo defender and forced a turnover. St. Louis picked up the change, and threw the puck out front for a point blank one timer from center Lecavalier. Vinny's first shot was stopped, but he followed up on the rebound and made it a 1 goal game. The Lightning were sparked, and managed to tie the game with less than a minute remaining in the period. Once again, the Bolts manufactured a scoring opportunity through aggressive forechecking. Thompson flew into the zone and caused a turnover on the half boards. He brought the puck behind the net, and threw a puck into the goal crease that went off a defender's skate in through Miller for the tie.
On to the second period we go. The Lightning came out, with a less aggressive forecheck to start the period. In fact, there was no forecheck at all; it was the 1-3-1 scheme that Lightning Coach Boucher likes to employ in certain situations to slow down the game. The Sabres struggled a bit to establish any real offensive pressure in the Lightning zone. Eventually, Stamkos won a clean faceoff from Gaustad to Gilroy. Gilroy fired a shot that bounced off a Sabres defender, off of Stamkos, and through Miller's legs for the go-ahead goal. The rest of the period continued, with both the Lightning and Sabres showing surges, including several huge breakaway stops by Garon on Vanek. There was no more scoring in the second however.
The third period began with the Lightning back on their heels in the defensive zone as the Sabres desperately tried to even up the game. The Lightning and Garon came up big defensively, stopping the Sabres onslaught, while also killing several penalties. Once again, as the Sabres surged towards the end of the game, Lightning defenseman Clark makes a great block that bounces all the way to Malone in the neutral zone. Malone skates in all alone against Ryan Miller and scores on the breakaway to make it 4-2. Shortly after, Malone's goal is even more important, as Sabres' Gerbe scores from the point to once again make it a one goal game with 50 seconds left. The Sabres would continue to put the pressure on the Lightning defense, but the Lightning would prevail by a score of 4-3.
1st Star: Mathieu Garon
2nd Star: Thomas Vanek
3rd Star: Steven Stamkos
Official Stat Sheet: http://bit.ly/ut9tnq
Images Via Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres team site photo galleries.