NHL Game Night: 3-29-14 Lightning at Sabres

When wins don't feel like wins...

TB-4
BUF-3 (OT)

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the OT win. Wait, what? 2 goals? Yes, because in a freak play Steven Stamkos scored into his own net with Bishop pulled on a delayed penalty. It was that kind of night.

First Period
12:20 BUF D'Agostini (5), (Ristolainen, Larsson)
14:07 BUF Hodgson (17), (Ehrhoff)
17:52 TB Killorn (16), (Kucherov, Carle)
19:46 TB Stamkos (22), (Brown, Gudas)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
8:14 BUF Conacher (7), (unassisted)(EN)
10:07 TB Callahan (16), (Purcell, Stamkos)(PP)

Overtime
1:53 TB Stamkos (23), (Filppula, Purcell)(PP)

Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars. For my money, J.T. Brown deserved consideration as well, seeing as he was one of the few Lightning players who didn't snooze through about 55 minutes of play tonight.

The Lightning now have 91 points, meaning they're probably just 4-5 points away from what they need to make the postseason. The way things are looking they'll probably get Montreal with the only real question being which of the two clubs gets home ice. That's a wonderful story, given everything that's happened over the last year, and I don't want to diminish it. And, with the win tonight the Lightning have gotten points in each of their last 11 games at a time of the year when points don't come easy in order to put themselves in this position. I don't want to diminish that either. Manufacturing points isn't an easy thing.

However, at some point you keep waiting for the Lightning to show they have an extra gear up from simply manufacturing points to actually proving they're one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and that's not how the team has looked lately. Tonight was painful to watch, just like the Islanders game was. Worse, in fact, because I think the Lightning's effort level was even lower tonight than it was against the Isles. Playing against two of the most talent-bereft squads in the NHL the Lightning didn't show up and just barely scratched out 2 wins. Yeah, that'll get you in the playoffs, but let's be honest: play like that in the playoffs and Montreal will embarrass you. Flat out. Embarrass. You. This team does not, in any way shape or form, look ready for the crucible that is postseason hockey. They, at times, look like a team happy just to be near making the playoff treating the experience like a coronation. At other times, they look like a team that peaked way too soon and are now running on fumes near the finish line (Bishop falling mostly into this latter category).

Something's got to change, and I hope with home ice still on the line it doesn't take this team taking a tragic, soul-shattering butt whipping at some point in the next few games for them to realize something's got to change in the effort department.

Mike Kostka was -1 with 1 shot in 15:44.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.