It was a bad second period. The Buffalo Sabres watched their two-goal lead turn into a one-goal deficit as the game unraveled in Toronto.
Although the Sabres battled back with a solid third period and earned a point in the 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto on Friday night, that second period breakdown was a valuable learning moment.
Interim coach Ted Nolan said he chose not to call a timeout to settle his team down, opting instead to have them work through it.
“Sometimes you get frustrated as coach,” Nolan said. “You just want them to work themselves through it. We’re not in kindergarten where you have to hold hands and direct them through every tough situation. They have to find a way themselves. Sometimes you let them battle through it and sometimes you have to call a timeout. Last night it was one of those things I tried to let them battle through it.”
Instead of battling, they barely survived the second period, being outshot 17-5 and outscored 3-0. The Sabres regrouped for the third period, generating 13 shots and tying the game on a last-minute power-play goal, but in the future, the Sabres would rather find a way to regroup earlier rather than later.
“Every team is going to bleed at some point in the game,” defenseman Henrik Tallinder said. “But when we’re bleeding we need to stop the bleeding right there and then. … It’s easy to come back between periods and say, ‘Hey, we didn’t play that well in that period.’ But if we can do it sooner, during the period, that’s what good teams do. They stop the bleeding quick.”
The trio dubbed the “flu line” in the shootout loss at Toronto skated better at Saturday’s practice at Bud Bakewell Ice Rink at Riverside Park.
Linus Omark, Ville Leino and Marcus Foligno weren’t at their best on Friday night but seemed to have more energy Saturday and Nolan said he thinks the team is finally rid of the illness bug.
“The guys who had the flu were skating much better today,” Nolan said after the team’s 45-minute practice.
On the ice and fully participating were forwards Brian Flynn and Matt Moulson. Flynn had a scar across his nose from where he took an inadvertent high stick on Friday while Moulson seemed fine after being cross-checked into the goal post.
Cody Hodgson, still sporting a cast on his left thumb and wrist, worked on the ice before practice with fellow-injured forward Cody McCormick.
Steve Ott was the only Sabre missing from practice but Nolan said it was a maintenance day for the captain.
“He battles and battles so we gave him a rest day today,” Nolan said.
Starting with today’s game, fans can bring their gently used mobile phones to First Niagara Center as the Buffalo Sabres’ Green Team joins with the non-profit Cell Phones for Soldiers. Donated cell phones will be sent to ReCelluar for recycling and every donated phone provides two and a half hours of free talk time for deployed troops with family members back home.
The collection drive continues at Sabres games on Jan. 4, Jan. 7 and Jan. 9. Donations may also be made at the Account Services window of First Niagara Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Tonight’s game will be on WGR 550 with the opening faceoff scheduled for 5 p.m. The Buffalo Bills game, scheduled for 4:25 p.m., will be moved to WBEN 930. … Friday night’s shootout loss was the first of the season for Buffalo. The Sabres had won the previous four shootouts they were in this season. … The 2-0 lead was the first of the season for the Sabres and the first time in 56 games they took a 2-0 lead. The last time was March 19 against Montreal.