TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buffalo Sabres relearned a basic hockey lesson Sunday night: It's good to shoot the puck.
The Sabres piled up 37 shots in their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night. Only one of them went in, so Buffalo only earned a 1-1 tie before 12,198 in the Ice Palace. But the shot total was a definite sign that the Sabres had played their best game of a 1-1-1 road trip. Buffalo was outshot 69-42 in the first two games of the trip, but held the Lightning to 31.
"We had mentioned that it had to be improved," coach Lindy Ruff said about the shot differential. "I don't know any particular reason for it. It's tough playing on the road in any building, particularly in close games."
"It was nice," Matthew Barnaby added. "We were all over them at times. Everyone was buzzing. Everyone was working. Everyone was skating. I hope it's something for us to build on in the future."
The Sabres played the first half of this game as they had their previous two stops on the road trip: The Lightning held the advantage and outshot the Sabres 15-8 in the first period. Alex Selivanov had the lone goal of the first period, stuffing one past goalie Dominik Hasek after a nice rush down the right wing.
"The first period was fair at best. We just came out sluggish," Ruff said.
It was more of the same at the start of the second period. The Sabres received a bit of a break when a goal by Tampa Bay's Daymond Langkow was wiped out because of a crease violation. Then came the goal that turned the game around.
Jason Dawe grabbed a poor clearing pass in the Tampa Bay zone, cut to the slot and beat goalie Daren Puppa from about 20 feet out. The Sabres suddenly and unexpectedly were tied, and it was just the boost the team needed.
"Sometimes when things are not going so well, a goal or a big hit will turn a game around," Dawe said. "Maybe it had something to do with it. A lot of guys -- Matthew Barnaby, Brian Holzinger, Derek Plante -- had a heck of a game. We again showed we don't give up too easily."
The Sabres slowly gained momentum from that point. The two teams were even for the rest of the second period, and Buffalo continued to turn up the temperature in the third. The Sabres might have been able to take the lead had their ailing power play come to life, but the team's man-advantage units couldn't put the puck in the net.
Buffalo's power-play numbers have become depressing. The Sabres were 0 for 2 with the extra man in the third period, 0 for 4 for the game and are 0 for 13 on the season. The Sabres had the worst power play in the league last season, and the loss of Alexei Zhitnik (still without a contract) hasn't helped the group this season.
Ruff thought there was a little progress on Sunday.
"In all fairness tonight, the power play was better," he said. "We had some chances down low. The one unit with Matthew (Barnaby) made some nice plays, and the other unit with Donald (Audette) generated some good shots.
"If you get one one good chance on each power play, you've probably created as much as you can. It was better tonight: not acceptable, but better."
Buffalo continued to turn up the pressure in the final 10 minutes of regulation play and in the five-minute overtime. The Sabres had a 17-3 advantage in shots during that time -- quite a change for a team that had taken a combined total of five shots in its previous two third periods. Seven of them came in overtime, tying a team record. But none of them beat Puppa.
"If we keep it coming like that, good things are going to happen," Barnaby said. "He stopped a lot of great shots, but most nights some will go in."
So the Sabres flew home with a .500 record after the season's initial road trip. Dawe feels good about those results as the team prepares for its home opener Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.
"We're satisfied," he said. "Obviously we'd like to win every game, but you have to remember that two out of three of the games were home openers. There was a lot of electricity around in those buildings. We're happy to be .500 on the trip."