Steven Stamkos said he and Marty St. Louis joked before Tuesday's game that with new Lightning coach Jon Cooper planning to watch from the press box, they had to step it up.

"I think it's in the back of everyone's mind, when you have a new coach watching the game," Stamkos said. "Especially from up top — he sees everything."

The Lightning likely made a good first impression in a 2-1 win over the Sabres before 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, snapping a three-game skid. St. Louis and Stamkos each scored and goalie Mathieu Garon was three minutes shy of a shutout.

Cooper, who planned to address the team after the game, said he hasn't given up on the playoffs. And by staying within six points of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with 16 games to go, his players aren't, either. Cooper's first game will be Friday.

"I'm proud of the guys and we have to keep this up," Stamkos said. "There's still a fighting chance and we're going to believe in that."

Stamkos believed Tuesday's strong effort was a continuation of the intensity displayed in Sunday's 3-2 loss in Winnipeg. This time, Tampa Bay got the result. The Lightning (14-18-1) gained momentum by striking first, late in the first period. Just after killing a Sabres penalty, St. Louis, down low in the Sabres zone, passed to Stamkos, who ripped a one-timer from the right circle.

"We wanted the puck today and made plays," Stamkos said. "And it showed out there."