Lightning end Sabres’ winning streak at 10 games

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The Buffalo Sabres’ outstanding winning streak ended at 10 games, yet in a way, this performance was as convincing as any that this team is taking a quantum leap forever.

Yes, the Tampa Bay Lightning won 5-4 on Thursday, as Steven Stamkos tied it 4-4 on the power play before Cedric Paquette netted the game-winner.

It’s also sobering for the Sabres to realize that, they’re now ranked third in the hyper-competitive Atlantic Division. This narrow regulation loss leaves the Sabres behind the Lightning (37 points in 26 games) and Toronto Maple Leafs (36 points in 26 games but with more wins/ROW), as they have 36 points in 26 games with a 17-7-2 record.

Yet, if the Sabres can take a step back for a moment, this contest was another reminder that they’re making big steps forward.

For one thing, it sure felt like this contest had the nastiness of a rivalry match. Jack Eichel drew the Lightning’s ire after boarding Ryan McDonagh, while there was a mini-fracas after Zach Bogosian was checked a little late. Maybe this didn’t generate a bunch of full-scale line brawls, but this is the closest as you’ll get to a hateful game between the Sabres and Lightning, at least in November.

The Sabres didn’t seem to get discouraged as they absorbed some body blows from the Bolts.

Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead on a rare Dan Girardi goal close to three minutes into the game, yet the Sabres responded not just with the tying goal but by taking their first lead of the game less than halfway through the first period. Sam Reinhart had a banner night, scoring two of the Sabres’ two goals, and Buffalo’s big names generally came to play.

There were a lot of positives to take from this game, even though the Lightning found a way to win. For one thing, Buffalo allowed quite a golden scoring chances for Tampa Bay, and Nikita Kucherov scolded them by way of this pretty goal on a 3-on-1.

If Thursday’s game stands as a preview for a series during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, hockey fans could be in for a treat. The way the Sabres are playing, the Lightning would be foolish to dismiss their chances in a best-of-seven format.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.