By Tim Schmitt
BUFFALO — After spending much of the Sabres’ playoff run as a healthy scratch, Thomas Vanek has gotten comfortable with new surroundings — the top of the league’s scoring sheet, for example.
Vanek continued his torrid scoring streak, scoring twice in Buffalo’s convincing 7-2 win over Tampa Bay on Monday.
With the tallies, Vanek jumped past Atlanta’s Ilya Kovulchuk and Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth into third in the league’s scoring race. Vanek has 15 goals while Atlanta’s Marian Hossa and New York’s Brendan Shanahan both have 16.
The first of Vanek’s two goals didn’t count until a lengthy delay from officials.
Nathan Paetsch took a weak shot that bounced off the back wall directly to Vanek, who quickly snuck it by Tampa goalie Marc Denis.
The goal looked clean on the first replay, but officials sent the play upstairs and took a long look. Vanek clearly didn’t kick the puck, but referee Chris Rooney stood with his ear to a phone for minutes before allowing the goal.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Lightning had a pair of controversial calls during a 4-1 loss at the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Although impressive, the Sabres’ second period scoring explosion — Buffalo tallied seven times on 13 shots — was not the franchise record for most goals in a period.
Buffalo scored nine goals in a victory over Toronto on March 19, 1981. The Leafs, coincidentally, come to HSBC Arena, on Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. start.
A “board malfunction” couldn’t have come at a better time for Tampa Bay, which got a breather after the Sabres jumped to a 7-1 lead in the second period.
With 2:08 left in the period, a piece of the boards in the corner to the left of Denis needed to be replaced. Referees tacked the final minutes onto the third period.
Jiri Novotny, who was given credit for a goal originally given to Daniel Paille, ended a scoring drought. Novotny had failed to register a point in five previous games and had just one assist through his last 11 games.
With the win, the Sabres stayed nearly perfect against the Southeast Division, improving to 5-0-1 on the season.
The team’s only blemish against the division was a 5-4 shootout loss to Atlanta on Oct. 28.
Just how ridiculous did Monday night get? After scoring seven straight goals, and coming within a twice-assisted goal of breaking the all-time record for most points in one period by a team, Buffalo fans enjoyed the brief intermission between the second and third periods with a golden oldie — the wave.
Doug Janik, who played in five playoff games for the Sabres last season, but failed to crack the lineup during the regular campaign in 2005-2006, returned for the first time since signing on with Tampa Bay in the off-season.
Janik, a second-round pick of the Sabres in 1999, was a fixture in the Rochester lineup even though he only played 10 regular season games with the Buffalo after finishing his collegiate career at the University of Maine.
Janik appeared in 376 games in Rochester. He has yet to register a point in 21 games with Tampa this season.
Contact group sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, Ext. 2266.