Cooper, Lightning host surging Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres hope to continue their charge towards a playoff spot on Tuesday evening with a season-high fourth straight victory as they visit the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Sabres have won three straight for only the second time this season. They began their first 3-0 span with a 2-1 win at Tampa Bay on Feb. 26, but dropped six of seven after that run.

Buffalo found the win column last Tuesday with an overtime decision in Montreal, then returned home to beat Toronto two days later. The Sabres followed with a return trip to the Bell Centre and held on for a 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Thomas Vanek scored twice in the second period and Ryan Miller made 38 saves. Vanek leads the Sabres with 16 goals and 33 points, while Miller helped Buffalo hold on despite getting outshot 16-5 in the third period and 39-18 in the game.

"We didn't get a lot of shots," said Miller. "(The Canadiens) hound the puck and make it hard, but we made it count. We put an emphasis on everyone being back and being together and we worked pretty hard in our zone."

Tyler Ennis had an assist on Vanek's second goal and has six points in his last four games as Buffalo took the opener of a three-game road trip.

The Sabres sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with 30 points, three back of the eighth and final playoff spot. The Lightning are three points back of the Sabres and 14th in the standings.

Tampa Bay capped a winless three-game road trip with Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets that came hours after head coach Guy Boucher was fired. Assistants Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix ran the team, but couldn't prevent the Bolts from losing for the sixth time in nine games. Steven Stamkos and Cory Conacher scored for the Lightning in Sunday's defeat, while Cedrick Desjardins made 21 saves in defeat.

On Monday, the Lightning officially named Don Cooper the team's new head coach, promoting him after he served the same role for the franchise's AHL affiliate for the past three seasons. Cooper is the eighth head coach in Tampa Bay history, but won't make his NHL coaching debut until Friday's home game against New Jersey.

"There is no other team in hockey that I would rather be coaching than the Tampa Bay Lightning," Cooper said. "It's quite a tribute to (general manager) Steve Yzerman and (owner) Jeff Vinik and the organization they are building that are proud to promote from within. I look forward to getting to know the players and getting to work right away."

Tampa Bay will play its next three at home and remains without goaltender Anders Lindback as well as forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone and Benoit Pouliot due to injury.

Buffalo's earlier win this season over Tampa Bay actually gave its interim head coach Ron Rolston his first victory of the season in his third game replacing the fired Lindy Ruff.

Tyler Myers had the winner and Vanek assisted on both goals in the 2-1 win, while Miller made 30 saves.

The Lightning got a goal from Stamkos in the loss, their second straight and 12th in their past 15 at home versus Buffalo.