Sabres rally in third, hammer Tampa Bay 7-4
by Peter Farrell - posted 1:36 am, February 9, 2011
What more can one say about Drew Stafford and the career season he is having?
Tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Stafford scored his third hat trick of the season, and has now racked up 20 goals. The Buffalo Sabres overcame a 3-1 deficit, and netted five in the third period, to stun the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-4, before a crowd of 14,444 fans, including a healthy sprinkling of Sabres faithful.
Early on it looked like the Sabres would go out with another loss against the Southeast Division leaders. But Thomas Vanek got on the scoreboard late in the second to close the deficit, and give the Sabres a striking chance in the third.
It didn’t take long. Jordan Leopold hit a slap shot from the point at the 4:26 mark, on a controversial play where goaltender Dwayne Roloson got caught in the skates of Stafford and went crumpling down. Roloson immediately went after the referee claiming interference, while the other players on the ice ended up in a pile up. Penalties were dished out and the goal counted. “What break did we get?” asked Coach Lindy Ruff after the game. “He was tripped and there was a penalty about to be called. It was a good goal from the get go. If it doesn’t go in we go on the power play. If you watch what (Marc Andre) Bergeron did he got Stafford in the back of the legs and he dumped Stafford. We’re lucky the referee saw it.” Stafford added, “we got a lot of momentum out of that play.”
The Sabres then exploded for three goals in a 3:13 span, Tim Connolly with the game winner on a perfect deke of Roloson which then bounced off one post and crossed the goal line, then Vanek and Stafford added two more At the 13:27 mark, Stafford got his third, sending hats flying on the ice courtesy of the Buffalo fans, while for Tampa Bay fans the exodus to the exits went into high gear. “This was a big two points for us,” said Tim Connolly. When asked about the controversial goal which tied the game at three, Connolly replied, “I didn’t see it, I was getting tackled. I made a read and got the puck back hoping Leopold would let it go. Sometimes you just have to be the decoy. it was a big goal for us.”
Stafford was especially pleased with yet another three goal night. “Getting two points here against a good team was huge. It (the hat trick) is not something you expect to happen too often but I’ll take it.”
The Sabres got some good news on the out of town scoreboard. Florida lost in regulation, while Carolina lost in overtime. So Buffalo is now only four points out of a playoff berth, with two games in hand. The team now heads to Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers on Thursday at the Bank Atlantic Center.