RALEIGH, N.C. -- A strong first period gave way to a complete disaster in the first 10 minutes of the second. For the Buffalo Sabres, it was a brief throwback to the tank days of a couple years ago, where they spent many nights doing their Washington Generals impression while opponents looked like the Globetrotters.
The damage tab Friday was three goals by the speedy Carolina Hurricanes in the first 6:51 of the middle period, including two from Jeff Skinner in a span of 55 seconds. That stretch proved to be the catalyst for a 5-2 Carolina win that left the Sabres pointless on their two-game Southern swing.
Buffalo led, 1-0, after 20 minutes on William Carrier's goal but Skinner burned Anders Nilsson at 1:48 of the second and the game instantly changed for good.
"They get a goal and you just see us drop. We got affected by it," said center Ryan O'Reilly. "They come right back down and they score again. From there it was trying to climb back. We couldn't do it. We didn't have the collective everyone-together kind of thing. When things aren't going the right way, we tend to get a little selfish and you can see it breaks us down."
"Same stuff. Same stuff that's been happening," muttered captain Brian Gionta. "Turnovers. Not playing with enough urgency. It's the same thing."
The Hurricanes came flying out of the locker room in the second period and the Sabres, in their second night of a back-to-back set, simply didn't have another gear to match them.
The root of the Carolina blitz came on Skinner's goal, a quick snapshot from the left circle that blew through Nilsson's glove.
"I thought I saved it but it went off my glove and ended up in the net," Nilsson said. "After that, they came pretty hard and pretty fast and got some momentum from the first goal. It's bad that I changed the game a little bit."
Skinner's second goal came on a 100-foot stretch pass from defenseman Justin Faulk, who saw the Sabres making a terrible change. Faulk got the puck to Skinner, who outpaced Matt Moulson, Zach Bogosian and Cody Franson to the net. He beat Nilsson off the far post to put Carolina up for keeps.
"It's all details in our game. Little things that add up to a lot," Gionta said. "Our details have been terrible."
Especially in the second period, with the long change for your defense, you have to be more detail-oriented. The Sabres have struggled with that point all season. Sometimes players lollygag off the ice and don't give newcomers a chance to get in the play. Sometimes, too many leave at once and opponents get far too much room to roam.
"You've got to be more intelligent," O'Reilly said. "You want to make sure you have two fresh guys on but have three staying and holding it down so they can't go quick-up and expose us."
"Some of it is puck management, where we put the puck and who's changing," said coach Dan Bylsma. "The defensemen are the farthest people from the bench and the forwards have to realize getting the puck deep and playing the puck in the offensive zone is the chance for them to get off the ice and get fresh guys out. We weren't good at doing that in the second period."
Just a week ago, the Sabres went toe to toe on the road with the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. They were majorly disappointed to only get three of four points after blowing a late lead in Chicago and losing in overtime.
By contrast, this trip was a complete wipeout. And the irony of frittering away the first goal and getting good starts both nights -- a seasonlong talking point -- was not lost on Bylsma.
"I thought that on both nights," Bylsma said, referencing Thursday's 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay. "Both on the road, getting the first goal, having good starts. Different scenarios but then both getting erased."
"We did do some good things but we have to stick with them," O'Reilly said. "We can't deviate like we did tonight. You're going to make mistakes over the course of a game but you can't take as much time off as we did during that one. There's no excuse."