BUFFALO, NEW YORK (TICKER) —The Tampa Bay Lightning moved back into first place in the Southeast Division.
Vaclav Prospal had two goals and an assist and Dave Andreychuk took sole possession of 11th place on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list as the Lightning snapped a six-game road skid against the Buffalo Sabres with a 4-2 victory.
Coupled with Washington’s loss to Los Angeles, the Lightning grabbed a slender one-point lead in the race for the division title with a game in hand.
“We’ve got 11 games left here. Each two points closes the gap for a playoff spot,” said Lightning center Brad Richards, who chipped in a goal and an assist. “That was our goal this year. So if we could keep grabbing those points, it gives us a better chance.”
Richards has two goals and six assists during his six-game points streak.
Prospal opened the scoring with a controversial goal 6:23 into the contest and then sealed the win with an empty-netter as Tampa Bay won in Buffalo for the first time since March 11, 1999.
The Lightning’s scoring leader, Prospal reached the 20-goal plateau for the second time in his career.
“This season has been special for the whole team,” he said. “It’s one of the most successful seasons we’ve had as an organization. For me to have this kind of year, it only reflects on the way the team is playing.”
Sabres winger Maxim Afinogenov thought he cleared the puck out of his defensive zone, but it seemed to deflect back across the blue line after bouncing off Prospal’s skate.
Lecavalier picked up the puck at the top the right faceoff circle and dropped a pass for Prospal, who slipped a backhander between the pads of goaltender Mika Noronen.
“They messed up, they made a big mistake,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of the officials. “Even the league is aware of it and already knows. If you watch Lecavalier’s reaction, he already quit on the play. Even after the goal, he looks at the linesman and says, ‘What happened?’ They blew the goal.”
Andreychuk’s power-play tally at 10:25 of the first was the former Sabre’s 611th career goal, moving him past Hall-of-Famer Bobby Hull on the all-time list.
“I think some of the names I’m going by is kind of incredible,” the Lightning captain said. “Some day, it’s going to sink in - sit back and see what you’ve done. My main goal going into this year is trying to lead this team into the playoffs.”
Andreychuk also eclipsed Hull to become the league’s second-leading goal-scorer among left wings. He trails only Luc Robitaille, who has 628.
The NHL’s all-time leader in power-play goals, Andreychuk fired a snap shot off Prospal’s pass from behind the net inside the right goalpost to make it 2-0. That marked his 258th career power-play tally.
“We are a little low on manpower and I thought we tried to gut out a pretty decent effort,” Ruff said. “We had some pretty good players miss some pretty good chances that could have put us back in the game.”
But Ruff found it hard to be dejected due to the announcement that billionaire businessman Tom Golisano is set to purchase the financially troubled Sabres.
“I think it was a great enough day as it was with that being announced,” Ruff said. “For myself, being in the city for this long, I think it’s a great day for Buffalo.”