It is round two of the Sabres home-and-home set with the Lightning. Tampa Bay stifled the Buffalo attack on Saturday on their way to a 3-0 victory.
Ryan Miller had a strong game in net, turning aside 23 of 25 shots on goal. However, he was bested by Mathieu Garon who stopped all 21 shots he faced on the evening.
The game may have been best illustrated by Tampa Bay’s first goal and a goal that wasn’t meant to be for Buffalo. Pavel Kubina’s seeing-eye slapshot found its way through a forest of legs for Tampa’s first goal in the second period. Just a few minutes later Drew Stafford let a wrist shot go that found the shaft of Garon’s stick. An inch or two in either direction for either shot and the score is drastically different.
Of course, whining about bounces solves little in hockey. The fact of the matter is that the Lightning lulled the Sabres to sleep with a steady diet of the trap. Buffalo had found waves of dominance in nearly every game prior to this one. On only rare occasions did the Sabres mange time in the offensive zone.
The key to a Buffalo victory will be to establish a transition game early and break Tampa Bay’s trap. Secondly, they need to get to Garon and make him uncomfortable. There is a reason he had one career victory against Buffalo entering Saturday, the Sabres need to exploit that again.
Vanek-Adam-Pominville vs. Guy Boucher and the trap. Buffalo’s top offensive line has manged to create multiple points in each Buffalo victory. In both losses they have accounted for only one goal. Boucher was successful in shutting down all four Buffalo lines on Saturday. While this trio had moments of brilliance, they weren’t the dominant force they have been in previous games. A strong effort from these three should result in Buffalo’s first home win.
BUF: Jhonas Enroth 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .935 SV%
TB: Mathieu Garon 5GP, 2-1-1, 1.51 GAA, .948 SV%
Last Game (Tampa leads season series 1-0-0)
10/22/2011, St. Pete Times Forum, Sabres 0 – Lightning 3