Sabres try to continue sudden surge vs. Lightning

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(SportsNetwork.com) - The suddenly surging Buffalo Sabres will aim for their first three-game winning streak of the season on Tuesday when they host the streaking Tampa Bay Lightning in the opener of a home-and-home series between Atlantic Division foes.

The Sabres won just three times over the first 18 games of the season, but Ted Nolan's club has five victories in six outings since that 3-13-2 start.

Buffalo enters Tuesday on a two-game winning streak after pulling off an improbable home-and-home sweep of the Montreal Canadiens this weekend. The Sabres notched a 2-1 regulation win Friday in Buffalo and then recorded a shootout victory the following night in Montreal.

The Sabres hope to keep up the pace tonight against the Lightning, who are tied with Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. The first-place clubs have 36 points -- 18 more than basement-dwelling Buffalo.

Tampa enters Tuesday on a four-game winning streak and tonight the Lightning hope to pick up where they left off last season against the Sabres. The Bolts won three of four meetings in 2013-14 and have claimed seven of 11 overall in this series.

The Lightning also have won two in a row and four of the past five encounters with the Sabres in Western New York. Tampa will host Buffalo on Thursday in the opener of a four-game homestand.

Buffalo blew a 2-1 third-period lead in Montreal on Saturday, but recovered for the 4-3 win. Max Pacioretty gave the Canadiens their first lead of the game with 6:45 left in the third, but Buffalo's Brian Flynn evened the score at 3-3 just 49 seconds later.

Flynn also recorded the lone goal of the shootout to help the Sabres finish off the surprising home-and-home sweep of the Habs.

After each team's first four shootout participants were unsuccessful, Tomas Plekanec followed suit for Montreal as Jhonas Enroth calmly turned aside his offering with a stick save. Flynn then put an end to the skills competition with a shot into an open net off a slick backhand-forehand deke past a sliding Dustin Tokarski.

Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart also scored in regulation for the Sabres, while Enroth turned aside 41 shots and stopped five more in the shootout.

"Jhonas Enroth was great tonight. He made some timely stops," Flynn said. "If he saves five in a row, you need to win the game."

The Lightning were in action last night, as they put the finishing touches on a season sweep of Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers with a 6-3 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Tampa outscored the Blueshirts by a 15-7 margin in taking the season series 3-0. The Lightning won two games in New York City by a combined margin of 11-4.

Tyler Johnson had two goals and an assist to lead the Bolts on Monday. Tampa trailed 3-2 midway through the second period, but responded with four unanswered goals to end the game.

Brett Connolly scored twice, Ondrej Palat posted a goal and an assist while Matthew Carle also had a goal for the Lightning. Ben Bishop posted 32 stops.

"They made us play under pressure ... Our guys handled it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Victor Hedman notched three assists in his second game back from a broken finger. The defenseman has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in seven games this season.

The Lightning could give Bishop a rest tonight and start backup Evgeni Nabokov, who is 5-4-3 with a 2.20 goals against average in his career against Buffalo.

Tampa is 7-4-1 as the visiting team this season.