The Tampa Bay Lightning are no longer playing like a second-division team.
"The whole team is playing better defense," Tampa Bay defenseman Petr Svoboda said. "To play team hockey, that is the key. We can't fall a sleep and win hockey games."
Buffalo had its four-game winning streak stopped. Rookie Maxim Afinogenov scored on the Sabres' first shot 45 seconds into the first period, giving him a goal in each of his first two NHL games.
"We had plenty of chances to win a hockey game," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "You have to bury your chances on the road. We gave them some life."
Kubina snapped a 15-game goal-scoring drought and gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 93 seconds left in the second period. The rebound goal from point-blank range came seven seconds after Kubina completed serving a hooking penalty and joined a Tampa Bay rush.
"Confidence makes all the difference in this game," Kubina said. "About seven games ago, I started playing better. I finally got my confidence back."
Darcy Tucker made it 4-2 with 14 minutes left in the third period. Steve Martins scored a first-period shorthanded goal and Mike Silinger, who also had three assists, added a power-play goal during the second period.
Cloutier preserved the two-goal lead midway through the third period, making five saves during a Buffalo power play. He also made a nifty glove stop on Stu Barnes' drive from slot later in the period.
"In the third period, Cloutier made two or three great saves to hold us at bay," Ruff said.
"Buffalo is a team that never quits," said Cloutier, who faced 15 shots in the third period. "We played well defensively in the third period. We allowed a few more shots, but the guys took care of the rebounds."
Barnes scored in the second period for the Sabres. Buffalo is 0-7-1 when trailing after two periods.
The Sabres lost defenseman Jason Woolley (ribs) and Rhett Warrener (ankle) to injuries. Both will miss at least Saturday night's game at Florida.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed