By Dory LeBlanc
As it was said several times over the past 24 hours, Thursday began a new era in Tampa Bay Lightning hockey, unfortunately, the debut had its ups and downs .
For the first time since April 2000, the Bolts took the ice without Martin St. Louis on their roster, but they did have their 10th captain, Steven Stamkos back from injury.
As the team was announced out of the tunnel, Stamkos was not with the rest of the team, as he was before breaking his right tibia in November; the Lightning saved the best for last, and Stamkos skated onto the ice, wearing the "C" on his No 91 jersey as the crowd erupted in support.
With 4:04 to play in the opening period, defenseman Mark Barberio made a costly error, turning the puck over to Tyler Myers who put the Sabres on the board first with an unassisted shot that went past Lightning goalie Anders Lindback.
Lindback, getting his first start since January 30th, made 16-of-21 saves on the night, once again a victim of bad luck on the second goal, a bad bounce off a shot by Marcus Foligno, who was assisted by Myers - his second point of the game.
With six minutes remaining, Cody Hodgson extended the Sabres' lead to 3-0 off a slapshot that sailed high, gloveside on Lindback.
Nearly four minutes later, Tyler Johnson nixed the shutout, threading the puck through two defenseman as well as teammate Ondrej Palat to get the Bolts within two.
Coming off the four-game road trip, the Lightning looked flat at times, but the loss was not due to a lack of effort; Tampa Bay outshot Buffalo 44-21 and won the faceoffs battle 37-24.
First Period -
1. BUF - Myers (None) 15:56
Second Period -
1. BUF - Foligno (Hodgson, Myers) 9:25
Third Period -
1. BUF - Hodgson (Foligno) 13:44
2. TB - Johnson (Hedman) 17:31
Shootout Tally: N/A
Shots On Goal:
BUF - 44
TB - 21
BUF - (1) Stewart - Roughing, Stewart - Roughing (Served by Leino); (2) Flynn - Delay Of Game; (3)
TB - (1) Kucherov - High-sticking, Salo - Roughing; (2) None; (3)
Next up for the Bolts: The Lightning will host division rival Boston Saturday, March 8th at 7:00pm. You can catch all of the action on sister station 970 WFLA with Hall of Famer Phil Esposito and Dave Mishkin giving the call with coverage beginning at 6:30pm.