Early in the season, this loss would have been easy to handle. The Sabres played with passion, created great scoring chances and received impressive goaltending.
It’s not early in the season, however. It was Game 50, and Buffalo is in a big hole with only 32 games to play.
So while there were things to like during Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, long faces still dominated the dressing room in KeyBank Center.
“We can’t settle for overtime losses,” left wing Evander Kane said. “We’ve got to get W’s.”
Chris Kreider’s goal with 1:04 left in OT dropped the Sabres to 0-2-1 in their last three games and 20-20-10 overall. That record won’t get the Sabres into the playoffs, and neither will moral victories.
“We need all the points we can get, so it’s a disappointing loss, for sure,” captain Brian Gionta said.
The Sabres performed well after a lackluster showing Tuesday in Montreal. They put 37 shots on New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. They again showed a penchant for third-period comebacks, tying the game on Cody Franson’s goal with 5:31 to play. Robin Lehner stopped 42 of 44 shots.
That added to up to just one point.
“Montreal was just a god-awful performance,” Lehner said. “This is a step in the right direction, but it still” stinks “to lose.”
Though the outcome was essentially decided by special teams – New York opened the scoring on the power play and added the winner just seconds after a Buffalo penalty expired – it was further proof the Sabres are just good enough to lose.
More than half of the Sabres’ games have been decided by one goal, so they can compete on a nightly basis. But they have won just 12 of those 27 nail-biters, falling to 12-5-10. That winning percentage of .444 ranks 21st in the 30-team NHL.
“It’s hard because we did a lot of good things," Kane said. “It just wasn’t our night, I guess. That’s kind of what you’ve got to chalk it up to when it comes to the offensive part.”
Kane and Gionta had their four-game point streaks snapped, though it wasn’t from lack of trying. Along with center Zemgus Girgensons, their line combined for 17 of Buffalo’s 37 shots. Kane had seven shots on 14 attempts. Gionta added six shots on 10 attempts. Girgensons tested Lundqvist four times on seven attempts.
“We had some really good looks, great looks, sustained pressure, second and third opportunities,” Gionta said. “It would have been nice to get one.”
Getting one goal could have meant getting two points. Kane nearly delivered in overtime, hitting the post 1:30 in.
“Usually when you hit the post you have the goalie beat, so yeah I had him beat,” Kane said. “But it didn’t go in the net, so it didn’t really matter unfortunately.”
That essentially sums up the game. The Sabres did a lot of good things, but it didn’t really matter in the standings. There are still only two teams behind them in the Eastern Conference.
They’ll try again to move up Saturday when Ottawa comes to town.
“That’s something we can build off,” Franson said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the finish we wanted to, but we can build on the positives we did in that game, with the way we responded compared to that Montreal game.”