The Sabres could have avoided the history books. The Minnesota Wild were on cruise control for the majority of the night Monday, and most clubs would have sent them on their way with a well-earned loss.
Buffalo isn’t most clubs. It’s almost in a class by itself.
The Sabres matched the franchise record for longest winless streak to start a season, sustaining a 2-1 loss in First Niagara Center. Former captain Jason Pominville scored the game-winning goal to drop his old friends to 0-6-1.
Buffalo began the 1990-91 season 0-4-3 and opened 0-5-2 in 1999-2000. The Sabres can set the record tonight when they complete back-to-back games. Goaltender Ryan Miller is expected to get the start on the road against the New York Islanders in Nassau Coliseum.
“I’d be lying to say your pride doesn’t hurt when you don’t have a win yet in this league, especially what our record is right now,” co-captain Steve Ott said.
The Sabres can’t expect to beat anyone, even teams giving a half-hearted effort, if they don’t score. They’ve totaled seven goals in seven games, finishing Monday’s game with one goal for the fifth time.
“Everyone in the locker room knows you’re not going to win games scoring one goal,” said right wing Brian Flynn, who pulled the Sabres into a 1-1 tie in the second period. “Our goalies have been playing great this year, but we have to find ways to create more offense. That’s on us. There’s not much the coaching staff can do.”
Flynn’s first of the season pulled him into a five-way tie for second place on the team’s goal list. Thomas Vanek has two goals, while Flynn, Jamie McBain, Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgensons have one.
“We certainly need our top six to step up,” said coach Ron Rolston.
Said Ott: “It’s everybody – myself, everybody – with lack of production right now.”
The Sabres had bright spots. They outshot an opponent for the first time, 23-20, with Minnesota taking 12 shots fewer than its average. Buffalo controlled pockets of play.
It didn’t matter.
“We were in charge pretty much the whole game, so it’s a good sign, I think,” goaltender Jhonas Enroth said. “We’ve got to put the puck in the net to get a couple more wins here.”
The Sabres against started slow as Minnesota became the sixth team to open the scoring against Buffalo. With the refs signaling a delayed penalty to Buffalo with five minutes gone, Kyle Brodziak’s shot along the ice slid under defenseman Mike Weber and Enroth.
Girgensons and Flynn jolted the crowd of 18,111 out of its seats with five minutes left in the second, tying the game. Girgensons carried the puck deep and waited for the open Flynn to get near the net.
“He saw me right when I got over the blue line, and if he gave it to me, their D might have stepped up and would have just gotten an outside shot there,” Flynn said.
Prosperity hasn’t been sticking around for Buffalo, and the trend continued as Minnesota exited the period with the lead despite getting outshot and often outplayed.
Pominville did the honors, working a give-and-go to perfection with Mikko Koivu, giving the Wild a power-play goal with just 9.7 seconds remaining.
Two goals once again proved insurmountable for the Sabres.
“I just think it’s in the guys’ heads,” Enroth said. “It’s just been kind of a snowball effect here. We’ve just got to get out of it and keep working hard.”