One after another, the Buffalo Sabres' penalty killers stepped in front of shots. The puck ricocheted off their bodies and pads, each carom adding energy in KeyBank Center.
"Those guys really sold out," Sabres right wing Nick Baptiste said Tuesday. "It looked like a team that was desperate to win, and that's what we were."
The team that's gone through the motions too many times showed desire against the best squad in the NHL. Killing a long five-on-three was Exhibit A in Buffalo's 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Sabres were down two men for 1:53 during the second period, but it was merely a chance to show their guts. Ryan O'Reilly, Marco Scandella and Jacob Josefson blocked shots. Benoit Pouliot, Scott Wilson and Rasmus Ristolainen filled lanes and knocked pucks away.
As the Sabres returned to full strength with their 2-1 lead intact, Buffalo's fans and players came to their feet.
"The guys were really inspired by that," coach Phil Housley said.
It takes work to win in the NHL, especially against the team with the most points. Scandella was living proof of no pain, no gain. He missed 12 minutes with an injury due to his block, but the defenseman returned to help the Sabres win for the third time in four games.
"When you're two-men down like that, you've got to sacrifice your body a little bit," Josefson said. "You know they're going to get some good scoring chances, but you have to be in the way. Everybody that was out there did a great job and sacrificed themselves. That helps a team win."
The Sabres' special teams played a starring role in the victory. The penalty killers went 4 for 5 against the league's second-ranked power play. Buffalo's man-advantage unit continued to dominate, scoring twice in three opportunities.
"To be a good team you've got to take pride in that stuff," Wilson said. "We've got to keep doing those little things to get the extra goals, get those extra points."
Even without playmaker Jack Eichel, the Sabres' power play is a sight to behold. Evan Rodrigues stepped in for Eichel on the top unit with O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo and Ristolainen, and they dizzied the Lightning with impressive puck movement.
The power play has struck in 12 of the last 16 games, going 16 for 45 for an astounding 35.6 percent success rate.
"It's been fun to watch," Wilson said.
While the special teams were clearly special, the stat sheet showed that nearly everyone contributed. Ten players had a point. Of the 18 skaters, 16 helped the Sabres compile 33 shots.
"It was a total team effort," Housley said.
The Sabres need that type of effort with Eichel gone. It helps that their remaining marquee names are rolling.
O'Reilly had one goal and three points for the second straight game. Reinhart scored twice, including an empty-net goal with 7.1 seconds left to seal it.
O'Reilly has nine goals and 18 points in the last 16 games. Reinhart has six goals and 16 points in the last 13.
"Once a couple start going in for you, it's just the little things," Reinhart said. "You're hanging onto the puck a little more. Your feet are getting under you. It's just little things like that that I'm finding early in the game that I'm able to build off of night in and night out."
The Sabres hope they can build off the last few games. They went into Boston and beat a club that is 34-12-8. Now they've dropped Tampa to 38-16-3.
Wilson feels more is possible, which is how he felt after the game in Boston.
"That gave us a little bit of confidence, which I think we've been struggling with for a while, just believing in ourselves," he said. "It was a lot of fun against the Lightning."