What's the opposite of special? A thesaurus will offer such antonyms as ordinary, common or regular.
The Buffalo Sabres probably would settle for those adjectives right about now.
The Sabres, befuddled on both their power play and penalty kill, lost another game Friday night because their special teams couldn't match up. This time, the Pittsburgh Penguins did them in, 4-2, in HSBC Arena.
"It's obvious we're pressing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Guys with good hands are making poor plays, poor decisions. We've got to work our way through it."
Derek Roy opened the scoring in the first period, and the Sabres seemed to shake out of their power-play doldrums with a blue-collar Chris Drury goal to give them a 2-1 lead in the second.
But the euphoria didn't last. The very next time the Sabres had an extra skater, a chorus of boos came down from the 18,690 in attendance because of another disjointed attempt. The Sabres have converted at least one in six straight games, tying their longest such stretch of the season. But their unsuccessful attempts have been abysmal.
"There's heightened awareness about our power play not making the difference right now," Ruff said. "You're going to expect some of the boos when you're ineffective."
Two of the Penguins' three second-period goals were on power plays. Ryan Whitney netted his to tie the game at 1-1 and rookie Evgeni Malkin scored the eventual winner 2.3 seconds before the intermission -- 2:49 after fellow rookie Jordan Staal scored at even strength -- to push the Penguins to a third consecutive victory and hand the Sabres back-to-back losses for only the second time.
"They didn't have consistent pressure and momentum throughout the game," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "We were able to break it up."
The Sabres haven't lost three in a row, but could tonight if their visit with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Air Canada Centre doesn't go well.
Martin Biron should be the starting goalie as the Sabres try to stay above .500 against the Northeast Division.
"It's not fun," Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman said. "Everybody hates losing here. But you've got to remember to do the little things and try to improve. I thought tonight we had some chances, but I don't think our frustration level should be that high. There's a lot of games left and we got a game [tonight]. There's no time to feel sorry for ourselves."
The Penguins scored on two of their five power plays. The Sabres have allowed five power-play goals in their past two games after killing 18 straight.
"Our penalty killing hasn't been very good," Ruff said. "I know there's been a lot of focus on our power play, but our penalty killing has given up five. Those are areas we have to sharpen up. . . . We've given up some good opportunities."
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller made 23 saves, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 shots.
Roy gave Buffalo the first lead on a beautiful one-timer from the bottom of the right circle with 5:16 left in the first period. He extended his point streak to six games, although he hadn't potted a goal in 11 straight.
Pittsburgh tied the score 7:26 into the second period after Buffalo was penalized for too many men on the ice. Once Sabres killer Jason Pominville broke his stick, the Penguins' deft puckhandlers showed their stuff with a slick passing display.
Pominville was heads-up with Crosby in the right circle and couldn't do anything about the cross-slot pass to set up Ray Whitney charging toward the far post. Crosby leads the NHL with 43 assists.
The Sabres took a 2-1 lead on Drury's power-play goal with 9:10 to go in the second period.
Simplicity and hard work produced the manna. Teppo Numminen dumped the puck. Paul Gaustad jumped into the glass to prevent Fleury from clearing the puck along the end boards. Daniel Briere gathered it and passed through the crease to assist Drury, who leads the team with nine man-advantage goals but hadn't scored one since Dec. 2.
"We played a pretty sound first period and were playing a pretty sound second period," Ruff said, "and we let their power play hurt us."