One game doesn’t undo weeks of up-and-down play; not in a sport with an 82-game regular season. It doesn’t matter if that win came at home, or in Sweden, where the Tampa Bay Lightning managed a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
Yet, for a Lightning team that had been wobbly in 2019-20 after that shocking first-round sweep against the Blue Jackets, it’s good to see a bit of that dominant burst back.
Here are a few thoughts from the first of two Lightning – Sabres games for the 2019 Global Series (find out more about the 2020 version here).
Striking quick early
In particular, the Lightning started strong.
Most obviously, that quick start could be seen in building a 2-0 lead, with the highlight being great passes from Kevin Shattenkirk to Brayden Point and finally to Nikita Kucherov for a pretty goal:
The Lightning were pretty assertive even beyond the early scoring. They fired 13 shots on goal in each of the first two periods before being knotted up 8-8 with Buffalo in the final frame. There were stretches where the Bolts carried themselves with that swagger we were more used to last season. Linus Ullmark gets the L here, but deserves some credit for some sharp saves when Tampa Bay was pressing to send that game out of control.
As you can read about here, Kucherov didn’t just score a nice goal. He also delivered a very-not-nice hit on Vladimir Sobotka, who did not return to Friday’s game.
The Sabres did not receive a power play for that hit, and perhaps there might be some overall grumbling about calls. After all, you could argue that was the difference in a one-goal game, as the Lightning went 1-for-4 on the PP, while Buffalo didn’t score on just two power-play opportunities.
Reinhart the Lionheart
Last season, Sam Reinhart had a breakthrough that mostly slipped under the radar, as the now-24-year-old generated a career-high 65 points.
On a rare quiet night for Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner, Reinhart almost scored enough to grab at least a standings point for Buffalo, as the winger was responsible for both of Buffalo’s goals. Reinhart is developing into a heady, useful two-way player, and maybe on his way to new career-highs, as he now has 13 points in 15 games.
This win pushes the Lightning to 7-5-2. While the Sabres rank ahead of Tampa Bay at 9-5-2, Buffalo’s now lost four straight games, and have dropped five of their last six. Neither team gets much time to ruminate on this result, as they meet again on Saturday.
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.