Bishop Returns, Palat Gets 2 Goals, Lightning Top Sabres 4-2

By MARK DIDTLER, Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Ben Bishop provided a much-needed lift for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bishop made 24 saves in his return after missing nine games with a lower-body injury, Ondrej Palat had two goals and an assist, and the Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Thursday night.

“It’s nice to get those competitive juices going,” Bishop said. “Obviously, two points makes it better.”

Nikita Kucherov and Anton Stralman also scored for Tampa Bay, which stopped a four-game losing streak. Lightning center Brian Boyle (lower body, four games) and defenseman Braydon Coburn (upper body, two games) also came back from injuries.

Bishop, 10-0-1 lifetime against Buffalo, turned aside left and right circle shots by Jack Eichel during the second period. Andrei Vasilevskiy went 3-5-1 over nine starts in place of Bishop, who is a potential free agent after the season.

“He’s a big part of our team,” Palat said of Bishop.

The Sabres, bidding for their first five-game point streak (3-1-1) since March 2012, got goals from Matt Moulson and Evander Kane. Anders Nilsson stopped 25 shots in his second consecutive start in place of Robin Lehner, who is ill.

“I’m not sure what it is, they’re big games for us and we keep coming out tentative,” Buffalo right wing Brian Gionta said. “Whether it’s nerves or we’re just overthinking things instead of just playing, we’ve got to find a way to get ourselves ready for big games.”

After Palat scored on the rebound from the slot early in the second, Kucherov made it 3-1 from the low left circle off a nifty pass across the slot by Victor Hedman midway through the period.

Kane’s goal off Eichel’s assist got Buffalo within 3-2 with 9 1/2 minutes left.

The Sabres got a power-play 11 seconds after Kane’s goal when Bishop was called for delay of game, but failed to capitalize. Buffalo went 0 for 4 with the man advantage.

“We got it to 3-2, that was the time we looked to our power play to step up there,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “We had one good shot from Jack (Eichel) that was a good chance to score. Kind of a missed opportunity.”

Stralman got a late empty-net power-play goal. The Lightning’s second-best NHL power-play unit, converted two of five chances.

Moulson and Palat, during a 5-on-3 power play, both had early first-period goals.

Palat had a short-handed breakaway shot in the third stopped by Nilsson.

“Palat was a beast out there,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

NOTES: Hedman has 31 assists this season. … Moulson stopped an 11-game goal drought. … Tampa Bay RW Ryan Callahan, sidelined for the third time since offseason hip surgery, missed his second straight game.

UP NEXT

Sabres: Complete a quick two-game road trip Friday night at Carolina.

Lightning: Will hold a pregame ceremony before playing Columbus on Friday night to retire Martin St. Louis’ uniform No. 26. “I’m definitely nervous,” St. Louis said. “I think a lot of emotions are going to come out when it happens.” St. Louis was a key member of Tampa Bay’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship team.

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