TAMPA — The Buffalo Sabres' historic win streak is over.
Despite rallying twice to tie the score and taking the lead with Tage Thompson's goal 2:29 into the third period, the Sabres had their run halted at 10 games with a 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena Thursday night.
A win would have given the Sabres, now 17-7-2 with 36 points, their first 11-game win streak in franchise history and kept them atop the Atlantic Division. They had previously won 10 in a row only twice. Instead, they lost in regulation for the first time since a 3-1 defeat against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. Buffalo had also won five consecutive road games and had not lost this season when scoring first.
The Lightning, 18-7-1 and now in first place with 37 points, rallied in the third period with goals by Steven Stamkos and Cedric Paquette, whose wrist shot at 14:19 gave Tampa Bay the lead and prevented the Sabres from mounting their sixth third-period comeback of the season.
Dan Girardi, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning. That spoiled a night in which the Sabres nearly overcame the loss of defenseman Jake McCabe to injury.
Sam Reinhart scored twice, including the tying goal 5:39 into the second period to make it 3-3, and Jack Eichel had two assists. Zemgus Girgenson also scored the tying goal 8:42 into the first period to even the score at 1-1. Carter Hutton made 32 saves, snapping his own eight-game winning streak.
The Sabres’ first rally came in the first period after Girardi scored 2:59 into the game on a rebound in front of Hutton. Buffalo scored twice in a 63-second span, beginning with Girgensons' deflection of a Rasmus Ristolainen slap shot. Reinhart gave the Sabres a one-goal lead with an awkward shot that went off Louis Domingue’s glove and in the net.
Killorn capitalized on another rebound in front of Hutton with a tying goal 10:28 into the first and Tampa Bay took the lead again with Kucherov's wrister on an odd-man rush. Despite being outshot 24-12 through two periods, the Sabres went into the second intermission with the score tied, 3-3, after Eichel's backhanded shot went off Reinhart's skate and in the net.
Thompson then gave them the lead with his shot from the right circle, a play that began with a remarkable drop pass by Casey Mittelstadt. However, Stamkos scored on a one-timer seven seconds into a power play to tie the score and Tampa Bay took the lead for good on Paquette's goal with 5:41 remaining.
One shot: Buffalo center Johan Larsson was assessed a double-minor for a high stick on Tampa Bay center J.T. Miller at 11:45 into the second period. Despite playing without Larsson, one of their best penalty-killers, the Sabres allowed only one shot on goal during the four-minute penalty. By killing off the penalty, Buffalo had allowed only three power play goals in its past 33 penalties.
McCabe down: McCabe left the game late in the first period and was on the bench at the start of the second but walked back to the locker room after helping kill a penalty. With Nathan Beaulieu serving a 10-minute misconduct, the Sabres had to play with only four defensemen for almost half the second period.
Furious first: The Lightning outplayed the Sabres for the first 10 minutes of regulation and broke the scoreless tie when Girardi was left alone in front of the net to capitalize on a rebound as Hutton lost his stick. Buffalo responded with two unanswered goals, including the go-ahead shot by Reinhart off Eichel's faceoff win, but Tampa Bay tied it 43 seconds later with Alex Killorn's rebound goal.
The two teams combined for three goals in 2:43, and the Lightning outshot the Sabres, 16-7, through the first 20 minutes.
Rookie frustrations: Dahlin wasn't pleased with his play in the first period. He slammed the bench door following a shift. The rookie defenseman was partly responsible for the Lightning's go-ahead goal 15:55 into the first. Dahlin pinched too far into the offensive zone to join the rush, and defenseman Erik Cernak's outlet pass started a 3-on-1 rush.
Kucherov's wrist shot went past Hutton and under the crossbar for the 3-2 lead.
Tensions spike: Eichel drew the ire of Lightning players after hitting defenseman Ryan McDonagh from behind five seconds into a Sabres power play during the first period. Ristolainen came to Eichel's defense, fending off Lightning players trying to punch the Sabres captain.
McDonagh was slow to leave the ice, leaving Tampa Bay temporarily with only four defenseman. Girardi was helped off the ice earlier in the first when he took a hip check from Thompson at center ice but returned following McDonagh's injury.
Eichel's hit upset Stamkos. To try to calm both sides, officials spoke to both players after the penalty was served. It didn't work. The first period was filled with late checks and altercations after the whistle. Finally, it boiled over at the end of the first, when Zach Bogosian checked Ryan Callahan in what appeared to e retaliation for an earlier hit on Mittelstadt.
Bogosian and Paquette threw punches at each other. Beaulieu and Callahan exchanged punches. In the end, Bogosian was given a two-minute minor for cross-checking and Beaulieu was assessed a 10-minute misconduct for fighting. No Tampa Bay players were penalized.
Ugly start: Tampa Bay outshot Buffalo, 8-1, during the first eight minutes, as the Sabres struggled to clear the puck from their defensive zone. Hutton helped by stopping two quality scoring chances for the Lightning, a pad save on Yanni Gourde's rebound shot and a glove save on a wrist shot from high in the slot.
Next: The Sabres will not hold a morning skate ahead of the Friday's 7 p.m. puck drop against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers, 9-10-4 and at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with 22 points, were idle Thursday after losing to the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2, Wednesday.