The Tampa Bay Lightning got blindsided by an Eastern Conference opponent fighting for a playoff berth.
They’ll face two more of those teams during a weekend road trip, starting with the red-hot Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
The Buffalo Sabres pulled out a 6-5 overtime victory on Tampa Bay’s home ice on Thursday. The Lightning rallied from a 5-3 third-period deficit to force overtime but the Sabres’ Ilya Lyubushkin scored at 1:41 of the extra session.
Tampa Bay has lost three of its last four games.
“If we want to play good hockey down the stretch, we’ve got to figure it out now,” Tampa Bay forward Pat Maroon said. “We got it back and got a point, but these teams are crawling for a playoff spot. We’re going to get a hot Detroit team and a Pittsburgh team that’s desperate to win hockey games. It’s playoff hockey down the stretch. We can’t give up four breakaways.”
Anthony Cirelli and Ross Colton scored the last two goals of regulation and Brayden Point had a goal and three assists.
“I thought we pushed well in the third,” Cirelli said. “We battled hard and got ourselves back in the game. I thought we showed some pretty good fight to come back and tie it up, but in the end, it wasn’t good enough.”
Tampa Bay had a 41-23 advantage in shots on goal but gave up too many quality chances.
“There were a lot of mistakes (Thursday), and they all wound up in the back of the net,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak received a two-game suspension Friday for elbowing Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo in the head late in the third period. Cernak will miss Saturday’s game and Sunday’s at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Thursday was just the seventh time the Lightning have lost at home this season, with three coming in overtime or shootouts. They’ve been much more vulnerable on the road with a 14-13-1 record.
The Lightning have lost the first two games of the four-game season series with Detroit. The Red Wings won 4-2 in Tampa on Dec. 6 and 7-4 in Detroit on Dec. 21. Michael Rasmussen has scored three goals against the Lightning this season.
Rasmussen also scored in Detroit’s 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. The Red Wings have won seven of their last eight games to position themselves for a wild-card berth.
“We’re over the cut line right now, that’s what it means to us,” said Andrew Copp, who had a goal and two assists against his former team on Thursday.
Copp and Rasmussen played on the second line along with David Perron, who contributed two assists.
“You go on a run like this and you’re finding ways to win every night,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “It’s usually contributions from everyone and (Pius Suter) was that guy the last couple of games and you could tell early on they (the Copp line) had some jump. Those three really like playing with each other and they’re predictable for each other, they have an identity.”
Lalonde was Cooper’s top assistant in Tampa Bay before getting the Detroit head-coaching job. He sees signs that the Red Wings are becoming a playoff-caliber team.
“I saw a stat that shocked me that we were 19-0-2 leading after two periods. Most teams, that’s what it looks like, that’s all I knew in Tampa,” he said. “When we went from good to great, we figured out some of those moments.”
–Field Level Media