Improving Sabres out to short-circuit Lightning

Despite a tough loss in South Florida on Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres have not found winning on the road to be their biggest problem in a season in which they will most likely miss the playoffs.Coac

Improving Sabres out to short-circuit Lightning

Despite a tough loss in South Florida on Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres have not found winning on the road to be their biggest problem in a season in which they will most likely miss the playoffs.

Coach Don Granato’s Sabres, who slipped to 14-12-3 away from Buffalo, will complete a two-game Sunshine State trip Thursday with their matchup at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The clubs have met twice, splitting a pair of contests in upstate New York — the Sabres winning 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 17, the Lightning victorious 3-1 on Jan. 20.

In Tuesday’s 3-2 loss in Sunrise, Buffalo played a tight game with the defending Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers, but former Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour scored the game-winning goal and added two assists in a banner night.

Buffalo had a season-best three-game winning streak and five-game road win stretch end, but it was how the loss unfolded that irked Granato.

Trailing 2-1 nearing the midway point of the third period, Buffalo forward Zach Benson took a penalty for tripping defenseman Niko Mikkola behind Florida’s net.

Feeling that a pair of previous calls went against his side unfairly, Granato complained too harshly, drawing a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct and giving the home team a full five-on-three power play for two minutes.

A member of the Sabres’ rear guard from 2018-21, Montour made the Sabres pay, belting a one-timer 40 seconds later for what turned out to be the winning tally.

Granato knew it would be difficult beating the hot Panthers, who are an NHL-best 17-4-2 in the calendar year and 27-0-3 when leading after two periods.

However, he felt his outrage was warranted, despite putting his group in an even tougher position in a 2-1 game.

“You lose — and you lose the way it happened — is extremely aggravating and extremely disappointing, and I’m not talking about our players,” said Granato, whose squad is 5-3-0 in its past eight games. “What transpired there is disappointing.

“Do I regret anything? What I watched transpire in that game … that’s just not right. That’s hard to watch.”

Tampa Bay started its three-game road trip with weekend wins over the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, but the steam fizzled and faded in a 6-2 defeat Tuesday at the Philadelphia Flyers — a game that was 1-all after 40 minutes.

But the floodgates opened in the third as the Flyers found the net three times in the first 6:55.

They added two empty-net markers in the five-goal frame and won for the first time against Tampa Bay in the past nine games on home ice.

“We came on the road and played eight great periods of hockey — and one we let get away from us,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “There (were) points to be had in this game. We’ve had a lot of success in this building. … At some point, something’s got to give.”

Brandon Hagel continued his torrid point pace with an assist on Nicholas Paul’s 17th goal to knot the game at 1.

That crept the top-line left winger’s point streak to 14 games, tying the franchise record for the second-longest stretch ever. He has nine goals and 12 assists during the streak.

Steven Stamkos holds the high mark at 18 matches (2009-10) and also had a streak of 14 (2022-23).