Underwhelming perfectly describes the start to the 2023-2024 season after the Lightning let one slip away in overtime. For the second straight game the team would be without captain Steven Stamkos and his presence was deeply missed. What started as a sluggish start for the offense later became the Brandon Hagel show. Jonas Johansson played better as the game went on, but Devon Levi and the Sabres made it a rough night for the rest of the team. The slump continues yet the season is still young meaning there is no need to panic.
Wasting no time to get shots on net was the Sabres offense. In the opening minutes Jordan Greenway’s shot nearly went in however the puck instead rung off the post and away from the net. Then, the Lightning offense began to generate shots on net in hopes of scoring the first goal. First power play of the night went to the Sabres after Conor Sheary is called for holding. However, the power play was short-lived after Alex Tuch is sent off for hooking. No damage was done as the game remained scoreless with just under 12 minutes to go in the period. Eventually, Buffalo would open up the scoring and the goal would give them their first lead of the season. Zemgus Girgensons beat Johansson to give Buffalo the 1-0 lead.
Sabres continue to dominate
To Buffalo’s credit their defense constantly did a great job of preventing any scoring chances for the Lighting while the puck was in their zone. Jeff Skinner extended the Sabres lead 2-0 with his first goal of the year. Entering the game the Lightning have given up 14 goals in the first 3 games which is the most to start a season in franchise history. Yes the team does miss Andrei Vasilevskiy but it will take time for the new additions on the blue line to mesh with the rest of the team. For now the team remains to be underwhelming. Prior to the period ending Austin Watson and Girgensons drop the gloves although the fight would not last long. Afterwards, Lightning went on the power play as Rasmus Dahlin was given an extra 2 minutes for roughing. Period ends with Tampa having 1:09 left on the power play.
Underwhelming play continues
Sabres killed off the penalty with ease to start the second period. However, Lightning would once again go back on the power play which at first seemed like it would be a power play for Buffalo. Again, Buffalo killed off the power play keeping the score at 2-0. Another underwhelming stat for the Bolts is their league-worst -27 shot differential in the second period. Sabres would get another chance on the power play after Darren Raddysh is sent off for hooking. Buffalo continued to shower the net with shots however none would reach the back of the net. Lightning killed off the penalty while desperately searched for a goal. Midway through the period would yield the first shot on net for Tampa.
Hagel finally ends the shutout attempt
Devon Levi was putting on quite the show for the home crowd and continued to make spectacular saves. On the other hand, Johansson continued to make admirable saves of his own to keep it a two-score game. One thing is for sure, the goaltender is not to blame for the Lightning still being down 2-0. With 5:19 left in the period Lightning went on the man-advantage for the fifth time tonight. Times like this is where the team misses Steven Stamkos and his wicked slap shots. As you could have easily guessed it was yet another underwhelming power play and all hope seemed lost. Thankfully that was not the case as Brandon Hagel was left alone and shot the puck past Levi for a much-needed goal. Second period ends with the Sabres up 2-1 and for the Lightning a hopeful spark to turn the game around.
Bagel on the board 🥯 pic.twitter.com/rzkZMQQhlF
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 18, 2023
A toned-down start to the final frame
Flow of the third period began smoothly with both teams exchanging possession with a stoppage coming after the first three minutes of the period. Half the period elapsed yet the score remained 2-1 Sabres. Buffalo shortly after would go on the power play for the fourth time tonight. Would the Lightning kill off the penalty or will the Sabres add to their lead? Said power play would be killed off with most of the puck being in the Lightning zone.
Forcing overtime only to give it away
Buffalo continued to torch the Lightning defense, yet Johansson remained poised in net to keep it a one goal game. Levi continued to prevent rebound chances from occurring which has made it difficult for the Bolts to score all night. Under 2 minutes to go Tampa pulls Johansson to get the extra attacker on in hopes of forcing overtime. The role of hero would be played by Hagel as he tied the game up with only 7 seconds left in regulation. A pair of miscues on both sides of the ice began a heart pounding overtime. Unfortunately, Dylan Cozens calls game and the Sabres win 3-2. Losing streak continues for the Lightning who will return home to face the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night.
HAGS WITH THE BUZZER BEATER 🚨 pic.twitter.com/jPwFFMISBX
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 18, 2023
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