TAMPA -- Kind to one team and unpleasant to the other, the fortunes of the new year took a quick turnaround Thursday night.
The Tampa Bay Lightning snapped a four-game losing streak and ended the Buffalo Sabres' four-game point streak with a 4-2 victory in Amalie Arena.
Winger Ondrej Palat scored two goals and added an assist for the Lightning, who avoided their first five-game skid since 2014. The Sabres' 3-0-1 spurt to open 2017 went by the boards, as did their bid for their first five-game point run since March, 2012.
The Sabres fell to 3-11-1 in their last 15 games against Tampa Bay since the start of the 2013-14 season.
Quick start: The first shot of the game ended up in the net as Matt Moulson beat Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop with a quick snapper from the left circle at 2:58 of the first period to put the Sabres into a 1-0 lead. Taking a sweeping one-handed pass from Zemgus Girgensons, Moulson netted his ninth goal of the season in 41 games -- after he scored just eight in 81 games last year.
Penalty trouble: The lead didn't hold because Kyle Okposo was nailed for slashing at 3:54 and Evander Kane went off for hooking at 5:12 to give the Lightning a two-man advantage for 43 seconds. The Tampa power play convered at 5:37 as Palat banged home Tyler Johnson's diagonal pass to the edge of the crease.
PK problems: The Sabres remain last in the NHL in penalty killing and have given up at lest one power play goal in seven of their last nine games. Palat's first goal was Tampa Bay's NHL-leading 37th power play tally of the season.
Pouncing on the puck: Palat gave Tampa a 2-1 lead at 5:18 of the second, taking a fat rebound kicked into the slot by Anders Nilsson on a Nikita Nesterov shot and blasting the puck into the net. The Sabres had been bottled up in their end for several seconds after a Marcus Foligno giveaway near the blue line.
Breathing room: Winger Nikita Kucherov made it 3-1 at 12:58, depositing a slick pass from fellow first-time all-star Victor Hedman.
Cl0sing the gap: Kane cut the Sabres' deficit to 3-2 with 9:30 left by beating Bishop from in tight off a Jack Eichel feed. Eichel alertly saw Bishop had lost his stick and quickly got the puck to the goalmouth to Kane.
The end: Anton Stralman hit the empty net with 18 seconds left, with Kane in the penalty box for high sticking.
Bishop knights Sabres again: The Tampa Bay goalie returned after missing nine games with a lower-body injury and continued his dominance against Buffalo by improving his career record against the Sabres to 10-0-1. Bishop entered the game with a career goals-against average of 1.57 and a glossy .942 save percentage against the Sabres.
Busy man: Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen played 10:18 in the first period, with 3:40 of that coming on special teams. He finished the night at 27:20, but was minus-2 in the game and was on the ice for all three of Tampa Bay's goals.
Up Next: The Sabres headed for Raleigh immediately after the game and will meet the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night at 7:30 in PNC Arena. The Canes entered play Thursday just three points out of an Eastern wild-card and holders of a dazzling 13-4-1 record at home. Buffalo was 0-1-1 in two games against Carolina last month, dropping a 2-1 shootout decision in its first trip to Raleigh.
The next home game is a special Martin Luther King Day matinee Monday at 1 against the Dallas Stars.