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Paul and Motte score early, Lightning beat Sabres 3-1 for 5th straight win

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Nicholas Paul and Tyler Motte scored 52 seconds apart in the first period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Saturday for their fifth consecutive victory.

Brandon Hagel had two assists, and Paul added an assist when defenseman Calvin de Haan scored into the empty net late in the third period. Jonas Johansson, a former Sabres player now backing up Andrei Vasilevskiy with the Lightning, made 27 saves in the opener of a three-game road trip.

“Obviously, it’s nice to do it at home,” Motte said. “But hopefully we can kind of turn the tide on what our record looks like on the road as well.”

The Lightning are 5-5-0 over their past 10 road games, after starting the season 4-7-2. Their current win streak, the longest of the year, began with four wins at home.

“We did our job at home,” Lightning center Anthony Cirelli said. “Now we have to go on the road here and win games. So it’s a great start for us.”

Dylan Cozens scored for the Sabres after missing the previous game with an upper-body injury. Following consecutive shutout victories, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 13 of 15 shots for Buffalo.

“The chances were even, and maybe favored us,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We didn’t score tonight and it becomes more disappointing because then not only can you look at what you didn’t score on, you look right back at, ‘OK, how did you give up the goals?’ And you’re frustrated either way you go about.”

Motte’s shorthanded goal gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead at 7:06 into the first period. He stripped the puck from Buffalo’s Alex Tuch in the defensive zone and beat Luukkonen on a breakaway.

“That was sneaky,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Tuch tries to make a play at the line. Motte hung in there. He can do that. It’s tough because until a couple games ago, we didn’t have a shorthanded goal. Now we just got our second.”

Motte scored 35 seconds into a Sabres' power play, less than a minute after Brandon Hagel set up Paul in the left circle for his 12th goal.

In his first start since Dec. 31, Johansson didn’t see many shots in the first two periods. But he made 15 saves in the third, the most important coming against Tuch on a breakaway in the opening minute.

“That’s a game-changer,” Cooper said. “That’s the difference in the game.”

Tuch said the Sabres’ push in the third period was “too little, too late.”

“We tilted the ice, we were able to get to our forecheck, create turnovers, keep them on their heels,” Tuch said. “They’re a seasoned, veteran team. They’re going to know how to play in all situations. I don’t think we were able to exploit them as much as we wanted to.”

UP NEXT

Lightning: Conclude back-to-back set at Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.

Sabres: Visit Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night to open three-game road trip.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl