Less than half a minute later, Lightning forward Teddy Purcell tied the game at 2. Alex Killorn then capped the Lightning's comeback, scoring 1:50 into overtime in a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night.
"That was a big turn of events," Cooper said. "The way it played out, that was a big momentum shift for us."
Vanek concurred, and was none too happy about it either.
"I tipped it in, and the next thing I know he's waving it off and pointing at me that I got 2 minutes," Vanek said. "I just thought he was wrong, but it doesn't matter. Me yelling and screaming at him is just going to get him mad and get them more power plays."
The turn of events occurred 5:21 into the third period.
Vanek tipped in Jamie McBain's point shot, but the goal was immediately waved off by referee Jean Hebert, who called Vanek for high-sticking on Matthew Carle.
What was confusing is that Hebert had his arm up while the Sabres controlled the puck as if to indicate a delayed penalty against the Lightning.
It took 22 seconds into Vanek's penalty for Purcell to capitalize by completing a nifty three-way passing play.
Purcell was surprised by what happened.
"Actually, I thought the call was on us, too," Purcell said. "The crowd sure didn't like it. But I thought it was the turning point of the game."
Tyler Johnson also scored for the Lightning, who have yet to hold a lead in regulation. They were coming off a 3-2 shootout victory at Chicago in which the Lightning overcame a 2-0 third-period deficit.
Vanek had two assists, while McBain and Cody Hodgson had a goal and assist each for Buffalo (0-3-1).
Despite the loss, Buffalo finally generated some offense by doubling its season goal total. The Sabres also earned a point to avoid extending their franchise-worst season-opening losing streak to four games.
Buffalo had previously never opened a season losing more than two straight in regulation.
Following the game, the NHL issued an email to explain the disallowed goal. The league said, Hebert did not see Sabres forward Steve Ott touch the puck and pass it to McBain at the point. The league backed Hebert in ruling that he made the right call by disallowing the goal.
"The net result was the correct call -- no goal, penalty to Buffalo," the release said.
Killorn's goal came during a scramble in front and after Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth stopped Valtteri Filppula's shot from in close.
Filppula then circled the net and passed the puck out front, where Killorn drove across the top of the crease and backhanded a shot into the open right side.
Cooper would prefer the Lightning get off to a better start, but he's not complaining of his team's finish.
"We don't want to play with fire every single game," Cooper said. "But they showed some resiliency and came back in two tough buildings and got us four points."
The Sabres' power play produced both goals after entering the game 0 for 13 this season, and 0 for 16 in its previous five games going back to last year. And Buffalo took its first lead of the season 11:09 into the second period when Hodgson opened the scoring.
By scoring two goals, the Sabres avoided several dubious marks. They avoided becoming only the 15th NHL team to open a season with three or fewer goals through four games. That's a group that includes the 1970-71 Sabres, who opened their inaugural season with three goals in four games.
Sabres LW Marcus Foligno returned after missing the first three games with a shoulder injury. ... Sabres G Ryan Miller returned, serving as a backup after sitting out one game with a lower-body injury. ... With an assist on Purcell's goal, Lightning RW Martin St. Louis earned his 915th career point to move into a tie with Bobby Orr for 94th on the NHL list. ... The Lightning concluded a three-game road trip, and return home to play seven straight at home.