BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Splicing together a sizzle reel of goals, the Sabres had a Stanley Cup contender on the ropes Monday night.

Then in a flash, the Lightning struck three times to defeat the Sabres 6-5 in overtime.

The three-time Eastern Conference champions rallied to deliver Buffalo its second straight loss and 10th in 12 games, as Tampa Bay stalwart Steven Stamkos scored the overtime winner after he and Brandon Hagel had goals in the final 5:25 of regulation.

“We played almost a full game,” said Dylan Cozens, who sniped his sixth goal of the season to give the Sabres a 4-3 lead midway through the third period.

“But we just kind of sat back at the end with that two-goal lead, and let them push and take over. Those are the times we need to just keep pushing for that next goal. Don’t sit back. Because that’s a good team, and once they get the momentum going, they’ll take advantage.”

Earning an OT point for the first time this season, the Sabres (9-12-1) displayed their offensive brilliance in building a 5-3 lead after falling behind by two goals in the first period.

Tage Thompson scored a scintillating goal in the first period and assisted on another by Jeff Skinner.

Thompsons’s 14th goal of the season was a tremendous individual effort. Picking off Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak’s pass form the corner, Thompson melted goalie Brian Elliott to the ice with a crossover, and the 6-foot-7 center extended his reach to stick the puck inside the far post. Thompson leads the Sabres with 28 points, 25 coming over the past 15 games.

Skinner scored his 10th of the season on a turnaround shot from a tight angle in the lower circle after Thompson pushed the puck toward the net. That made it 5-3 with 5:41 to play, but Stamkos turned the tide with his goal just 16 seconds later.

“We rode the ups and downs in the game and it was almost as if we’re hopeful the clock will just run out,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We stop playing. So that is very uncharacteristic but I think it had to do with the way the game was laid out. We had created so much that you felt you should win and it should be your game, and now you’re protecting that once you got the lead. And you can’t. You’ve got to keep going at it the way you were, and we didn’t.”

Rookie Jack Quinn also had a goal, and Tyson Jost scored his first in four games since being claimed off waivers.

Rasmus Dahlin recorded team-leading 16th assist on Cozens’ goal, and the All-Star defenseman riled up the crowd by rasslin’ on the ice with Nikita Kucherov after the Lightning forward took a run at Luukkonen.

The Sabres overcame an early 2-0 deficit. A minute after Thompson’s goal, JJ Peterka set up Quinn for his fourth goal of the season and third in three games. Jost put Buffalo ahead when he lifted the rebound from Kyle Okposo’s shot to score in the second period.

Owen Power also had an assist on Quinn’s goal. It was the 19-year-old rookie’s 10th in 22 NHL games, the third-fastest among Sabres defenseman, after Phil Housley (13 games in 1982) and Calle Johansson (15 games in 1987). Dahlin got his 10th assist in his 23rd game in 2018, as did Tyler Myers in 2009.

Mattias Samuelsson recorded his first point of the season with an assist on Cozens’ goal 9:37 into the third.

“You score five goals, you create lots of chances as we did, those are definitely positives,” Granato said. “But this learner is huge. It’s huge. So you leave this game, that’s going to dominate everything else.”

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 19 saves in dropping to 1-1-1 on the season.

The Sabres lost despite having a 37-25 advantage in shots on goal and 25 scoring chances compared to the Lightning’s 13.

“There’s going to be games where we don’t deserve the two points,” Stamkos said. “And tonight was probably one of those.”

Tampa Bay scored three goals on four power plays, while the Sabres went 0 for 1.

“We played sometimes good, and sloppy at times,” Dahlin said. “I’d say five-on-five, we’re good. But we can’t give them power plays at the end of the game. We got to stay away from the box.”

Granato said he had no issue with Dahlin fighting to protect his goalie in the closing minutes of the third period. But Jost’s hooking penalty with 3:13 remaining proved costly when the Lightning pulled Elliott to gain a 6-on-4 advantage, and a hopping Hagel tipped Kucherov’s shot past UPL for the tying goal 81 seconds later.

This was the second time this season that the Sabres surrendered a lead to Lightning, having lost 5-3 three weeks ago in Tampa Bay after going up by a goal in the third period.

Buffalo visits Detroit for a TNT game Wednesday night before hosting Stanley Cup champion Colorado on Thursday.


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.