There are offensive slumps and then there is the stick-squeezing we're seeing from the Buffalo Sabres. It's putting pressure on every area of their game.
The Sabres didn't do much with their scoring chances again Wednesday night but at least they managed to survive. Clarke MacArthur, playing his first game of the season after a call-up from Rochester earlier in the day, slapped home the game-winner 3:16 into overtime to give Buffalo a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins.
An HSBC Arena sellout crowd of 18,690 saw the Sabres snap their three-game losing streak and avoid dropping four straight for the first time since March 2006.
"That's big for us," said center Paul Gaustad. "We owed them. They beat us in overtime [last Thursday in Boston] and we showed a lot of character coming back and winning that one.
"It helps us but I don't think we're going to let the pressure off ourselves. We have to climb here, start putting together a string of wins together. It's not going to be easy now that we won one. It's going to keep being harder and harder."
Especially if Buffalo can't score. The Sabres have just 15 goals in their past six games and only one has been notched in the first period. Buffalo has allowed the opposition to score first 11 games in a row and has thus been playing from behind constantly.
The Sabres have never held a lead in regulation for five straight games. Review the schedule deeper and check out this stat: In the last 10 games, the Sabres have led for a paltry total of 11 minutes, 37 seconds. "It's something we want to fix," said defenseman Brian Campbell. "You get a lead, sometimes you can loosen a team up a little bit and it results in more goals. . . . Maybe it goes in cycles and we're due to get out of it soon."
It was same-old, same-old when Marc Savard opened the scoring for Boston at 8:07 of the first period.
"To start out down again in your own building, you start to think, 'Are we going to get a lead this year?' " goaltender Ryan Miller said. "It's one of those things. It does weigh on you but we did a pretty good job of snapping out of it for the most part."
The Sabres were blanked Monday in Montreal despite a 29-19 advantage in shots on goal. They had 29 more shots Wednesday (Boston had 26) but their shutout string reached 99 minutes, 13 seconds before Ales Kotalik's power-play goal at 15:50 of the second. It came on a one-timer that beat Tim Thomas low to the stick side after a feed from Maxim Afinogenov. The game was tied at 1-1.
"That keeps you in a pretty tight situation," said coach Lindy Ruff. "You're never relaxed in a game when you don't have a lead. It's tough playing even . . . or one [goal] down. It would be nice to put something together and get a couple in the first period. I think you'd see a little bit looser team."
Maybe MacArthur's goal, Buffalo's third OT winner of the season, can help loosen things up.
Defenseman Toni Lydman did some key work in the left corner, riding Savard off the puck. Drew Stafford pounced on it and backhanded a perfect pass to a streaking MacArthur in the slot as he sneaked in from the point. MacArthur's quick slap shot went over Thomas' right shoulder for his fourth career NHL goal.
"It's the best feeling I've had in a long time so I'm really excited about it," MacArthur said. "I was just covering for Toni at first. He went in, made a play and I snuck into the back slot area. [Stafford] made a great pass."
"We're getting the chances, working hard," Gaustad said. "The best thing you can do is work through those chances, not try to be fancy, just be simple and put it in the back of the net."
Boston 1 (OT)
Slap shots: MacArthur gets winner at 3:16 of OT. ... Kotalik's power-play goal snaps Buffalo's 99-minute scoring drought. ... Savard gives Bruins first-period lead.
Fast fact: The Sabres have given up the first goal in 11 straight games. Their record in that span is 5-5-1-0.
Next game: Friday vs. Toronto, 7:35 p.m. in HSBC Arena