With one of their best scoring performances of the season their last time out, the Buffalo Sabres continued collecting some much-needed points in their drive for playoff contention.
The Sabres will try to move a step closer to that goal by ending their scoring struggles against the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
Buffalo (24-22-5) improved to 10-4-1 in its last 15 games with a 6-2 rout of visiting Toronto on Saturday night, tying its season high for goals.
Drew Stafford(notes) and Thomas Vanek(notes) also matched season highs with three points apiece and helped the Sabres bounce back after blowing an early two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh the previous night.
“I’ve said it before that if we want to get into the playoffs we have to make sure that we deserve to go in and do the right things to get the wins,” Vanek said. “I think in Pittsburgh we kind of just sat back and let them take the game to us.”
The Sabres, 6-2-1 in their last nine road games, have climbed to 10th in the Eastern Conference, and they’ll likely need a better offensive performance against the Lightning (33-16-5) to earn another two points.
After winning 17 of 20 over Tampa Bay, Buffalo has managed one goal in each of its consecutive defeats to the Southeast Division leaders this season.
The Sabres might be catching the Lightning at a good time, as they’ve given up a combined eight goals in the past two games after allowing six in their previous six.
Tampa Bay, though, has won seven of eight and rebounded from a loss to division rival Washington with a 4-3 overtime win over St. Louis on Sunday, the fifth of 12 consecutive home games.
“Personally, for myself, I thought that was one of my worst games (against Washington) in a big game, so I knew I had to come out and try to prove to myself that I wanted to help this team win,” NHL goal scoring leader Steven Stamkos(notes) said after matching a season high with four points.
“It wasn’t just me, the whole team stepped up.”
Stamkos joined Vincent Lecavalier(notes), who scored in overtime Sunday, as the only Tampa Bay players with 40 or more goals in consecutive seasons. His first-period goal was his ninth in 10 games, and he has 15 of his 72 points over that span.
Stamkos scored for the first time in five games against Buffalo on Dec. 18 and added an assist in a 3-1 victory. Martin St. Louis(notes) also had a goal and two assists in the Lightning’s second win in 11 home matchups with the Sabres.
Tampa Bay is 18-5-2 there this season and has won 12 of 15.
Teddy Purcell(notes), who has nine points in the last five games, scored the tying goal in a 2-1 victory at Buffalo on Nov. 20. Adam Hall(notes) put Tampa Bay ahead for good with a second-period score.
Miller, who has started 28 consecutive games, has allowed three goals or fewer in his last seven starts.