The Sabres skated out for the third period in a 1-1 tie. Robin Lehner looked at the scoreboard less than 10 minutes later, and Buffalo was in a 4-1 hole.
The goaltender also looked at the shot counter. Anaheim opened the final period Thursday with a 14-3 lead, a continuation of a troubling trend: Buffalo allows way too many shots.
“We want to make saves for our team, but it’s just about stacking the odds against you,” Lehner said after a 5-2 loss to the Ducks. “They’re going to get bounces. They’re going to get tips. Players are going to get some breaks.”
Anaheim got all of those things. That’s to be expected when one team puts more shots on net than the other team even attempts. The Ducks finished with a 44-26 shot advantage and a 67-40 lead in attempts.
“We gave the puck up a little too easy here,” Sabres center Jack Eichel said. “It’s so hard to get it that when you get it you need to possess it. I think we were just kind of shooting it around.
“That’s what happens. You play a good team, you don’t possess the puck, it ends up in the back of your net.”
The Sabres are last in the NHL in shots allowed at 34 per game. They rank 27th in Corsi at minus-266. Things have been especially bad during the past month.
The Sabres have allowed 32 or more shots in 16 of their last 17 games. They’ve given up 40 or more in three of the past five. Since Jan. 5, opponents are averaging 37.4.
“You just don’t stack the odds on our side when there’s quite a bit of games in a row where there’s 30 after two,” Lehner said.
It’s one thing if shots are coming from the outside. It’s another when teams are peppering Lehner and Anders Nilsson from close range. In a 45-second span of the first period Thursday, the Ducks had a two-on-one and a breakaway.
“We’ve got to take a look at the tape because San Jose, New Jersey, it’s a lot of quality chances, too,” Lehner said. “We’ve just got to see where the small pieces are missing, but I’m sure we will. … I’m sure coach is going to walk us through it, but we’ve definitely got to step up.”
Anaheim finished with a five-minute edge in offensive-zone time, which wasn’t a surprise to Sabres coach Dan Bylsma. He noted how many shot attempts the Ducks’ defensemen had (24).
“That’s an offensive-zone indicator of having possession of the puck in the offensive zone and going low to high and getting shots on the cage,” Bylsma said. “That’s been really a common denominator.”
Buffalo has outshot the opponent in just 15 of its 54 games. It has done it only once in the past nine.
“Whenever we have the puck and don’t shoot and try to hang onto it and turn it over, that’s when they get their chances and their shots,” defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said.
As Lehner said, mistakes are going to happen when pucks keep getting thrown at the net. On Anaheim’s fourth goal, Lehner tried to steer the puck into the corner. It hit the heel of his stick rather than the blade, and Corey Perry was there for an easy tap-in.
“It’s unfortunate on the fourth goal, but you get enough shots, sometimes it’s going to bounce wrong,” Lehner said. “But it’s 3-1 anyways. We can’t expect us to climb back and make helluva comebacks all the time. We had the game right there, 1-1. It’s disappointing.”
The lopsided loss put an end to the Sabres’ 6-0-1 run in KeyBank Center. It dropped them to 22-22-10, just an 82-point pace. It usually takes 95 to make the playoffs.
Buffalo won’t make a run if it can’t get the puck.
“They controlled it in our zone,” Eichel said. “Just overall not a really good effort from us. I think more than anything it’s just the little things of making passes, executing. We just weren’t sharp at all. We were pretty sloppy.”