Dan Bylsma wanted guys on the ice who can score, so Matt Moulson stayed on the bench.
Moulson watched much of the Sabres’ last game from the sidelines as his goal-scoring slump reached 13 games. Bylsma moved Moulson down to the fourth line during the second period of Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Detroit, and the left winger skated just three shifts during the third period for a total of 1:51.
“It was a situation where our bench got short in the third period there,” Bylsma said. “Frankly, with all the timeouts that happened out there, you have the opportunity to get the players that can go out there and score the goal for you in those situations. That was the case.”
That Moulson is not one of those players is evident. He has four goals in 25 games, which puts him on pace for 13 tallies. Since signing a five-year, $25 million with the Sabres before last season, Moulson has 17 goals in 102 games.
The 32-year-old started the game in Detroit on the second line alongside center Jack Eichel and right wing Brian Gionta. Zemgus Girgensons took a shift in Moulson’s place late in the first period, then took several in the second. Moulson moved to the wing for center David Legwand and right wing Marcus Foligno.
Moulson finished with 12:04 of ice time, including nothing after 7:23 remained in the third period, though he did take part in the shootout. He had one shot and recorded the secondary assist on Girgensons’ power-play goal.
Linus Ullmark had no desire to talk about the big saves he made. He said they didn’t mean anything, even the point-blank ones late in the third period.
He cared only about the easy shots he missed.
The goaltender had an up-and-down night in Detroit. The rookie made a career-high 42 saves and stopped Pavel Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist in the shootout. But he knows he could have stopped the game from even reaching the extra session.
Justin Abdelkader beat Ullmark between the pads with 6:29 remaining to tie the game, 4-4.
“If I would have been good I would have taken the fourth shot and we would have had a 4-3 win in the bag,” Ullmark said.
Giving up one bad goal can eat at a goalie. Ullmark had three gnawing on him, including Tomas Tatar’s backhand that found the net on Detroit’s first shot.
“It was three bad goals,” said Ullmark, who was asked what made them bad. “Just my execution on the goals.”
The setback dropped the goaltender to 0-3-2 in his last five decisions. He hasn’t won since beating Florida on Nov. 12 and has a .891 save percentage in the span. Overall, he is 4-5-2 with a .916 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against average.
“You see the guys battling their” butts “off and they score two early goals and you have a lead and then you’re letting in one of those bad goals and you know you’ve done that two other times during the game, of course you’re frustrated,” Ullmark said. “It just” stinks.
Girgensons has sent a message to his Latvian fans: Don’t vote for him.
Girgensons, who was voted into last year’s NHL All-Star Game when his homeland went zany for Zemgus, sent a tweet Wednesday that urged the fans not to repeat the act.
The loose translation was, “With all due respect to fans, please do not vote for me this year for the All-Star Game! Such things must be earned!”
Despite arguably being the Sabres’ best player at last year’s All-Star break, Girgensons still felt sheepish and unworthy at the event in Columbus, Ohio. With only two goals and four points in 21 games this season, Girgensons would feel even more out of place in January in Nashville, Tenn.
While Latvians stole the spotlight with their voting prowess last year, this season’s All-Star vote is turning into the John Scott Show. Even though the former Sabres enforcer has been waived this season by Arizona, he is the leading vote-getter.
While Ullmark was hard on himself for Buffalo falling into a 2-0 hole in the opening 10:32, his teammates can take some of the blame.
“We weren’t as sharp as we need to be in a lot of areas,” defenseman Josh Gorges said. “We gave up way too many shots and chances, but we found a way to come back after being down to start the third, get the lead.
“It’s a tough way to lose. We gave ourselves a good chance in the third, but we’ve got to be better early in the game.”
The Sabres have given up the opening goal in 15 of their 25 games and fell to 3-9-3 in those situations. They are 7-3 when they score first.
“We’ve got to start learning from these mistakes,” Gorges said. “We do a good job of continuing to fight. We’re not out of the games. We stay in them and we’ve won a few that way, but it’s got to change. We’ve got to be sharper to start games.”
After returning from a two-game benching, Johan Larsson had two shots, one hit and lost all four of his faceoffs in 8:08 of ice time. … The Sabres had six players skate more than 20 minutes: Rasmus Ristolainen (27:55), Ryan O’Reilly (26:14), Evander Kane (24:38), Eichel (22:24), Gionta (22:17) and Zach Bogosian (20:34). … O’Reilly went 18-8 on faceoffs to win a game-high 69 percent. Eichel was 6-12 for 33 percent. … The Sabres took seven of their 32 shots on the power play, while Detroit took 44 of its 46 at even strength.