Anthony Cirelli scored twice as the host Tampa Bay Lightning rallied to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 7-5 on Friday night at Amalie Arena.
Cirelli’s second goal tied the score 5-5 with 13:45 left in the third period. Brayden Point earned the game-winning goal less than a minute later with 12:58 left, and Victor Hedman added an insurance empty-netter with 1:26 remaining.
Tampa Bay played without star center Steven Stamkos (lower-body injury) but still had enough offense to move two points ahead of the idle Boston Bruins in the battle for the Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference’s top seed. The Bruins (110 points) have two games remaining. Tampa Bay has one.
Tampa Bay also got goals from Yanni Gourde, Nikita Kucherov and Dan Girardi. Kucherov has 39 goals, which leads Tampa Bay and ranks top-10 in the league. He also has 99 points, which ranks second in the league behind Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who leads the NHL with 44 victories, was not sharp but made 27 saves to earn the win. He did, however, pick up the only assist on Hedman’s goal.
The highlight for Buffalo was the first career goal by each of their two most recent first-round picks, center Casey Mittelstadt, 19, and right winger Alexander Nylander, 20. Nylander was selected eighth overall in 2016 and was playing his sixth NHL game. Mittelstadt was playing his fifth game and was also selected eighth, in 2017.
The Sabres also got 27 saves from Chad Johnson and goals by Jason Pominville, Jordan Nolan and Kyle Okposo.
Tampa Bay scored just 30 seconds into a wild first period that featured five goals. All five goals were scored within the first 10 minutes of the period.
The second period, with four goals, was almost as wild as the first. Tampa Bay needed just 64 seconds to extend its lead to 4-2 as Girardi, a defenseman, scored by joining the rush and unloading a heavy shot that trickled through Johnson.
But Buffalo battled back with three straight goals — by Pominville, Nolan and Okposo — to take a 5-4 lead. However, the Sabres, who have already clinched last place in the 31-team NHL, were ultimately denied.
—Field Level Media