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A night of firsts to remember for Mittelstadt, Nylander

TAMPA, Fla. -- The stat sheet doesn't tell nearly the whole story. By the numbers, it shows the Buffalo Sabres gave up three goals in the third period and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-5, here Friday night.

It was a wild game before 19,902 in Amalie Arena that saw the Lightning take a two-point lead over Boston while Buffalo dropped its third in a row and fell to 2-8 in the last 10. Tampa got goals fromm Anthony Cirelli and Brayden Point in a 47-second span of the third period to wipe out a 5-4 deficit and take the lead for good.

But this game might forever mean far more to the Sabres' future than being merely another loss in Game 81 of a long-lost season.

Casey Mittelstadt and Alexander Nylander are the Sabres' first-round draft choices the last two years and are expected to be mainstays on this club in the future. Each scored his first career goal before this game was 10 minutes old and they were the first of what the organization hopes will be many more.

"I was joking around that the young kids like the Florida weather," said Evan Rodrigues, who scooped up the puck on Mittelstadt's power-play goal at 2:57 of the first period. "Congratulations to both of them. It's obviously a weight off your shoulders. I remember getting my first goal. It's something I'll never forget so I'm happy for both of them."

Mittelstadt burned Andrei Vasilevskiy with a quick snapshot on his goal after taking a pass from Marco Scandella. It made the score 1-1 after Tampa's Cirelli had scored the game's first goal at 30 seconds. Nylander deflected home Brendan Guhle's shot at 6:32 to pull the Sabres into a 2-2 tie.

"It's definitely big. It's just a bit of relief to get the monkey off your back," said Mittelstadt, who has four points in five games since being signed out of the University of Minnesota. "You're free to play and it will definitely help."

"It's a dream come true, what you dream about when you're younger," Nylander said. "It was a surreal moment and it was just nice that it went in."

It marked the first time the Sabres had two players get their first NHL goals in the same game since Curtis Brown and Wayne Primeau did it against New Jersey on May 3, 1995.  Getting the goals in a hostile environemnt while playing against a goalie who posted his NHL-best 44th victory made an impression on coach Phil Housley.

"Those are great things for these young kids playing in this building against that team," Housley said.

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Mittelstadt was a picture of patience on his goal. He took a pass from Marco Scandella and picked a corner on Vasilevskiy, showing patience that most 19-year-olds don't have.

"I've been in that spot on the power play pretty much my whole life," Mittelstadt said. "For me, it wasn't too much new. Scandy gave me a lot of time with a good pass and [Nick Baptiste] had a good screen. I just shot it into the opening."

"I'm glad he started shooting the puck. We were talking about that," Housley said. "If you find that lane, take that shot and all those other things will come into play after you've established that. He found a lane."

Nylander took advantage of one of several strong plays in the game by Brendan Guhle, cutting to the front and getting his stick on Guhle's shot.

"I saw Guhle get on the point and I was just thinking about getting to the net because there would be a rebound or something like that," Nylander said. "Lucky for me, I got a tip on it. He's been really good for us this whole year, jumping up on the play. Having that extra D-man out there is a huge help for us and he's been really good."

The Wraparound: Lightning 7, Sabres 5

 

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