|4:30 PM PT5:30 PM MT6:30 PM CT7:30 PM ET0:30 GMT8:30 5:30 PM MST7:30 PM EST4:30 UAE (+1)19:30 ETNaN:� BRT, February 21, 2019
Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida Attendance: 19,092
Sabres' rocky road gets tougher at Tampa
The Buffalo Sabres are reeling since their 10-game winning streak early this season, and they need to find a win somewhere to get back on track for a push to a playoff spot.
Trying to find that victory in Tampa Bay on Thursday night will be difficult.
The Sabres were blitzed by the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, failing to hold a 1-0 lead in the third period as the Panthers clicked off four goals in the final 20 minutes for a 4-2 victory.
Jack Eichel scored for the 1-0 advantage but lost a second goal when the Panthers successfully challenged for offside. Vladimir Sobotka tallied a harmless marker with eight seconds left in regulation for the Sabres, who fell to 11-18-5 since their lengthy winning streak from Nov. 8 to Nov. 27.
The loss dropped the Sabres to 2-7-2 in their last 11 games against the Panthers and 1-8-1 in South Florida in their past 10 visits.
The task doesn't get any easier when Buffalo (28-24-7, 63 points) travels up the Sunshine State's west coast to visit the sizzling Tampa Bay Lightning (46-11-4, 96).
Linus Ullmark has essentially taken over the starting goaltender job from Carter Hutton, and the 6-foot-4 Swede stood tall through 40 minutes as he stopped the first 24 shots against Florida before Jonathan Huberdeau (two goals), Jayce Hawryluk and Aleksander Barkov scored in the final period.
The Sabres played without winger Kyle Okposo, who was sent home from the trip after getting concussed following a punch from New York Rangers forward Tony DeAngelo in a 6-2 home loss on Friday.
"I think right now we're a fragile group," Eichel said. "It's been a tough stretch for us, without a doubt. It just seems like things are going the opposite way (than) they were. It's an uphill climb for us right now."
As far as comfort goes, the high-flying Lightning are locked in and producing some of their best hockey of the season.
The club completed a sweep on Tuesday night of its back-to-back set to start the week. Tampa Bay soundly defeated two Eastern Conference foes on the road -- the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Monday then the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 the next night.
Neither match was close. The Lightning, who have won seven straight, jumped out to 2-0 and 3-0 leads after the first period in each game, respectively. Goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Louis Domingue cruised from there and shut down the two Metropolitan squads.
Vasilevskiy has been brilliant of late, posting five shutouts in his last 15 starts. He came within 1:45 of posting his third straight blanking on Monday, but a goal by Lukas Sedlak ended a stretch of 183:53 of shutout netminding by the Russian goalie.
Left wing Yanni Gourde said Tampa Bay's unselfish play makes it easy for players to adjust.
"I think since the beginning of the year everyone felt comfortable playing with each other," said Gourde, who netted on the power play, his 17th goal, in the Philadelphia win. "I think it's the mentality of our team and our identity. And the way we play makes for such an easier adjustment."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 20, 2019