A dreadful finish cost the Buffalo Sabres a win Tuesday in Philadelphia. An equally dreadful start was the culprit Thursday in a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild in KeyBank Center.
Joel Eriksson Ek and Jason Zucker scored first-period goals for Minnesota and the Sabres never caught up in falling to 1-3-2. Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk made 38 saves in posting his second shutout in three days as the Central Division-leading Wild improved to 5-2-1 despite being outshot, 38-22.
The Sabres gave up eight of the game's first nine shots on goal in a moribund performance that proved to be their undoing.
Bar Down: Eriksson Ek, Minnesota's No. 1 draft pick in 2015, burned Buffalo goalie Anders Nilsson with a quick snap shot that clanged off the crossbar to put the visitors in front at 4:51. After beating Jake McCabe just inside the blue line, the shot from a bad angle whizzed over Nilsson's right shoulder.
Splitting the middle: Former Sabre Chris Stewart found Zucker on a breakaway pass up the middle between McCabe and Cody Franson and Zucker beat Nilsson on a slick backhand at 15:13 to make it 2-0.
Much better second: The Sabres exploded out of the gate in the middle stanza and were outshooting the Wild, 16-1, at one point. The final count was 19-4, with eight of the shots coming on two power plays. Tyler Ennis had five shots on his own but could not beat Dubnyk.
The insurance: Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter made it 3-0 at 2:59 of the third with a floater from the left wing that Nilsson seemed screened on and reacted late with the glove. Mikko Koivu hit an empty net with 1:09 left.
Birthday boys: Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen played his 200th career game and turned 22 on Thursday. Injured Sabres center Jack Eichel turns 20 on Friday.
The Ripper: During the first television timeout, a video was played honoring longtime equipment manager Rip Simonick for participating his 3,500th NHL game last week in Calgary. Simonick, who has been with the Sabres since their 1970-71 inaugural season, waved to the appreciative crowd.
In the House: The Sabres announced there were 18,122 tickets distributed for the game. There were plenty of no-shows.
At the podium: The Sabres and USA Hockey will hold a news conference in the arena pavilion Friday at 4 to discuss more details about the World Junior Championships to be held here starting on Dec. 26, 2017. Details on Team USA's outdoor game in Ralph Wilson Stadium are believed to be the focus of the announcement, as will the unveiling of the event's logo and ticket package information.
Up Next: The Sabres have back-to-back matinees this weekend, as defending Atlantic Division champion Florida is here Saturday at 1 and Buffalo then jets west to play Winnipeg Sunday at 3 in MTS Centre. They have a rematch with the Wild slated for Tuesday night in St. Paul.