Jamie McBain is in control at the top of the attack and has a knack for getting shots through traffic. Those are the traits the Buffalo Sabres’ power play really needs on a nightly basis.
McBain showcased them Tuesday with a goal and an assist, each his first in a Buffalo uniform, in the 3-2 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
“It’s big. That’s something that I feel like I bring to the table, something I want to contribute with,” McBain said. “We’re struggling there. To get two of them tonight is something we can build on.”
McBain, 25, was acquired in the draft day trade with Carolina that send Andrej Sekera to the Hurricanes. He struggled at times in his Buffalo debut Saturday in Pittsburgh, notably failing to cover Sidney Crosby on the Penguins’ first goal, but looked much more comfortable Tuesday.
“He brings a calming presence,” said center Cody Hodgson. “He doesn’t rush things, makes the plays when they’re there, and at the same time has a great shot.”
McBain’s goal at 18:34 of the second period came after the Sabres had passed up several opportunities early on the power play. With the crowd of 18,243 uttering a huge “shoooot” plea, McBain surveyed the scene and calmly fired a wrist shot past Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.
“He just shoots it and it goes in,” said coach Ron Rolston. “Running it at the top he’s got a lot of poise just holding on to it making plays that need to be made. His shooting too, he’s got the poise to hold it and find the hole to put it through.”
“It wasn’t a hard bomb,” added winger Thomas Vanek. “He walked it in, took his time, took a great wrister.”
McBain combined for 15 goals and 57 points for Carolina in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons but slipped to just one goal and eight points last year in the lockout-shortened campaign.
McBain’s goal was his first since Jan. 28 against Boston and his first power-play goal since March 24, 2012 at Detroit. It was the first game in his career he scored two points on the power play.
“There’s always going to be a hole somewhere,” McBain said. “You’ve just got to be able to find it. It just comes down to getting pucks at the net, getting bodies at the net. We had a good couple days of practice and felt good coming into it.”
The Sabres shuffled their forward lines, with Marcus Foligno making his season debut after missing the first three games with a shoulder injury and immediately getting reunited with former linemates Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. Meanwhile, Steve Ott was taken off that line and moved up to the top unit with Vanek and Hodgson.
Foligno had a game-high seven hits and fought Tampa Bay defenseman Radko Gudas just 3:22 into the game after making a big hit on Lightning forward Valteri Filppula.
The third line was Mikhail Grigorenko between Brian Flynn and Zemgus Girgensons while the fourth unit was John Scott-Kevin Porter-Patrick Kaleta. But Grigorenko continues to struggle and played only 8:07 as he was dropped to the fourth line.
To make room for Foligno on the roster, the Sabres put defenseman Henrik Tallinder on injured reserve after he suffered an upper-body injury Friday night against Ottawa. He’s expected to miss a week or two.
Ryan Miller got heavy work during the morning skate and seemed to come through it OK, with Rolston saying after the game he should be ready to play here Thursday against Columbus. Jhonas Enroth had another strong game in net in place of Miller, making 31 saves.
“He would have been ready today for the most part but we’re giving him a little bit more time,” Rolston said of Miller. “Jhonas was good again. That’s been a strong point for us. Both of those guys have done an incredible job.”
Oddly enough, the loss dropped the Sabres to 94-94 all time in regular-season overtime decisions since the five-minute session was added in 1983. … The Sabres fell to 49-23-6 overall against Tampa Bay – still their best mark against any opponent they’ve met at least 30 times. … Martin St. Louis assisted on the Lightning’s tying goal, giving him 915 career points and pulling him even with legendary defenseman Bobby Orr for 94th on the all-time NHL scoring list.