Home is not where Sabres offense roams - The Buffalo News

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Home is not where Sabres offense roams

Sabres fans have seen this October act before. Particularly at home. And injuries or not, it's just not a good look.

For the fourth straight season, Buffalo has lost its first two games in what's now known as KeyBank Center. And its early-season offensive malaise continued with Thursday's 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

The Sabres had a 38-22 advantage in shots on goal -- including 30-9 over the final two periods -- but couldn't crack Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who posted his second straight shutout. Buffalo's undoing was a lackluster first period that saw it give up eight of the game's first nine shots and fall behind, 2-0.

It had all the looks of a team with its dauber down in the wake of its third-period collapse Tuesday in Philadelphia.

"I thought we were squeezing it a little bit tight in the first with the last game a little bit in our heads," admitted winger Kyle Okposo. "We just wanted to make sure we made the right plays. We played a little bit too uptight. In the second, we came out and dominated the game."

"We have to have a short-term memory. We have to learn from it but you can't let it affect your next game," added winger Tyler Ennis. "The only way it should affect it is in a positive way because you've learned your lesson. Our start wasn't good enough tonight and that was the difference."

Captain Brian Gionta wasn't so quick to blame any sort of carryover effect, instead lauding the Wild's forecheck pressure.

"It wasn't turnovers as much as they were just taking it to us and we couldn't control their speed," Gionta said. "You start slow like that and get behind, you're chasing the game the whole time."

Coach Dan Bylsma sensed his team's yips with the puck.

"In old school terms, grinding the sawdust," he said about Buffalo's jittery sticks. "We weren't able to execute, got a little nervous with the puck. I don't know if that's from the Philly game but that's what it felt like in the first."

Backup goaltender Anders Nilsson had his first pedestrian peformance in a Buffalo uniform going back to training camp and that didn't help. Joel Eriksson Ek's snapshot over Nilsson's right shoulder at 4:51 of the first period put the Wild up for keeps and was described by Bylsma as "kind of a punch in the gut."

But goaltending doesn't matter much if your team can't score and the Jack Eichel-less Sabres certainly can't, with just 14 goals in their 1-3-2 start.

And it's even worse in front of the home folks. The Sabres had just two goals in their first two home games in each of the last three seasons, going 0-5-1 in those games. They have just one goal in losing their first two downtown this year.

"We need to get goals to win hockey games and we haven't been able to do that," said Bylsma. "We haven't gotten out to a lead enough. We haven't gotten goals in this building and it's certainly led to our demise."

"In front of our fans, we’ve got to give something to them," said winger Zemgus Girgensons. "Those first 10 minutes of the game are very important just to get it going."

The Sabres didn't have much going off the hop in this one. The defense pair of Cody Franson and Jake McCabe got burned for both first-period goals, the Eriksson Ek shot and a Jason Zucker breakaway. But the Sabres bounced back in the second period, taking 16 of the first 17 shots and finishing with a 19-4 advantage.

"We just couldn't get one by Dubnyk and if we had early in that period, it could have been a different game," Okposo said. "We had to move on. The first wasn't a good period. We knew that and we know how we can play and we showed that a lot more in the last two periods."

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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