Lindy Ruff had a long list of compliments for his team during the past two weeks. Every time another city's media member would ask him what was going right for the Buffalo Sabres, he would praise them for paragraphs on end.
The Sabres' poor showing Wednesday night led him to do the opposite. Following a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues, Ruff condemned his team's effort, its carelessness, its smarts, its ice time and, ultimately, its stubbornness.
The good will earned during the Sabres' five-game winning streak evaporated as quickly as the two-goal lead they held against the Blues.
"We're sometimes a young, stubborn crew that thinks it should be a lot easier, and it wasn't," Ruff said.
"I could see it early," he added. "You could see it in shift length. You can see it after the first period when guys average over a minute [Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford and Nolan Pratt]. We had one that was over 1:20 [Vanek]. That just adds up."
The long shifts doomed a squad that was in for a footrace in HSBC Arena. The Blues attacked and finished with a 32-23 edge in shots, skating past a team that had played five games in eight nights.
"We had no legs," Sabres defenseman Jaroslav Spacek said. "The shifts were too long. The tempo was too high for us, and we just couldn't stay there."
To a man, the Sabres admitted they didn't deserve to win to extend their streak to six. Too many turnovers. It harkened to the days prior to their run, when people lamented the Sabres' desire for individual plays.
"We think this will be easy and we'll put on a show for the crowd," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "That didn't work at the start of the year, and it didn't work tonight."
The Sabres had a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on goals by Jason Pominville and Ales Kotalik, but the Blues really turned up the pressure after that. They finished the second with just a 2-1 deficit and 12-4 edge in shots.
"I think we wanted to be the hardest-working team in the league, and we definitely weren't that tonight," Pominville said. "They outworked us, outbattled us, and at times they were taking it to us."
The Blues tied the game at 2 with 3:45 gone in the third period when Paul Kariya capitalized on a two-on-one with Keith Tkachuk. They took the lead less than three minutes later when Mike Johnson scored from a bad angle along the goal line.
"For the life of me I have no idea why someone would shoot from there on a four-on-two," Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said. "But I still thought I got there and sealed it off. He just got it off my pants and it went straight up into my armpit."
The crowd of 18,690 was revitalized when Andrej Sekera scored his first career goal with 8:58 to play, but Brad Boyes scored with 57.5 seconds left to give the Blues the decision they earned. Miller had never allowed a game-winning goal in the final minute of a third period.
"I'm not real happy about the third period because I thought I played a strong game for two periods, plus early in the third," he said. "The deciding parts of the game I wasn't real happy with."
It was the first time the Sabres held a two-goal lead and lost in regulation since Jan. 12, 2004, against Boston. It was the first time they did it at home since falling to Atlanta on Nov. 5, 2003.
"The tendency in a game where you've got a couple-goal lead is to maybe push the envelope a little bit, and I think that's what hurt us," Ruff said. "We had some guys that were very careless with the puck. We didn't take care of it. It hurt us."
The Blues' victory sent their two Western New Yorkers -- Jay McKee and Lee Stempniak -- back on the road with a smile.
"For us to come out with a win was pretty special for me and Lee," McKee said. "It was a great second period for us, and it was a huge win. For two teams that were playing so well, it means a lot to us."
Slap shots: Sabres' winning streak ends as Boyes scores late in third period. ... Sekera nets first NHL goal. ... Pominville scores in back-to-back games after 13-game drought.
Fast fact: Wednesday was the first time in six games the Sabres allowed more than two goals.
Next game: Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. Saturday in HSBC Arena.